Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Grief is a funny thing. You never know when it’ll hit you or how poignantly you may feel it at any given moment. Perhaps it’s my son’s upcoming Bar Mitzvah that is making me think about my mom and feel her absence more profoundly. The other day as I was getting ready for work, I found myself thinking, “I wish I could call mom and tell her all the great things he’s doing at 12 years of age!” I know she would be proud of my son. Her kids and grandkids were her life.
This is what I want to tell my mom:
I miss you. I didn’t realize how deep this pain would go and how much I would question if I should have been there more as a rabbi for you. I know you felt my love as your daughter, but I can’t help but feel guilt in wondering if I should have drawn more on my professional skills to help usher you through your final days. I hope you’re at peace. I hope you somehow know how much we love you and all the amazing things your grandchildren are doing and how we talk about you all the time. You left us with memories we carry and the traditions we pass on to the next generations.
I appreciate you. As I get older, I have gained new perspectives on your role as a mother and a wife. I want to thank you for raising me with love and making me feel safe and supported.
I forgive you. I think sometimes of what I perceive as your shortcomings. Yet, I know you prioritized family above all else. These moments are insignificant in comparison to all you blessed me with and I realize so many of my accomplishments I owe to you.
We will always remember you. In the well-known poem, We Remember Them, by Sylvia Kamens and Jack Riemer that is often recited at funerals we read, “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them.” Judaism teaches that our deceased loved ones live on in our memories and the enduring acts they did while still on this earth. Every time I recite the words of this poem, its truth brings tears to my eyes, as I remember you.
At the bar mitzvah in just a couple of months, I will feel your presence and know you are celebrating with us.