My father was a disturbed man. It is not his death I mourn when his yahrzeit comes every year; it’s something else. This is a complicated grief. Today his yahrzeit brings up less terror and more sadness as I trust his absence more.
This year I was surprised to receive my yahrzeit notice from my former synagogue, although we haven’t been members since we moved away before my father died. I recall these yahrzeit notices for my parents as both helpful and annoying. Helpful because the Hebrew dates change each year on the secular calendar and it’s hard to keep track of when to say Kaddish. Annoying because of what I’ve perceived as the lie in the assumption that I’d want to honor my father’s life. What do they know about it? I’d think, conflicted.
This is a thorny, complex grief.
I read this year’s letter carefully, with new eyes, and I see that it’s offering me comfort and peace. I need this. I need comforting.
It’s been eight years since my father’s death, fourteen since my mother’s. More than that, in fifty years of adulthood I have never said how much I need to be comforted. Not even to myself.
My former synagogue remembered to say this to me in their yahrzeit letter, remembered that I lost something this day, and asked me to remember this is also a time I can feel embraced and comforted.
“Why would they send you that letter, all of a sudden, out of the blue?” my friend asks. “Maybe it’s your father, offering comfort.”
“Wouldn’t that just take the cake!” I say, but I consider his outlandish words.
The world is far more baffling and convoluted than I can conjure. Such a thought challenges everything—even forgiveness would be obsolete. My friend must be toying with me. He’s becoming woo-woo, or at the very least, spiritual.
And I do it, I imagine a world larger than terror and lacerating pain and meanness and helplessness.
What if the letter was my father, offering comfort?
Of course it wasn’t. But what if?
This expanded view is mind-altering, greater than self.
Oddly, it comforts me.