Yom Kippur

Two years ago on Erev Yom Kippur, I went upstairs to change for services, and lay on the bed for a few minutes, to collect myself, and to let some tears loose.  It was my third High Holy Day season without Eric, so I was getting used to not finding Eric at the Temple when I went to services, and David was in my life, so I wasn’t feeling the wrenching loneliness I’d felt in the first year after Eric’s death.  But it had been another hard summer, losing David for a time during his return home to be with Laura and their children on her journey to death, and reliving a quick cancer death, even though it was happening to a family I only knew through David.

Sam came into the room and lay down next to me on the bed.  “What’s up?” he asked.

“I’m just getting ready to go to services,” I said, wiping at the tears. 

“You know what I think about every year at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?” Sam asked.

“Daddy?” I said, half laughing.

“I realize that Daddy had the life he wanted,” Sam said.  “I used to think he just spent his life working for The Man.  That he was cooped up in these jobs that weren’t what he really wanted.  But now I understand that he loved his work, he had a great family life, he spent a lot of time doing things he loved liked hiking and kayaking.  He had a good life.”

“Yes, he did,” I answered.  “He said over and over in the weeks he was dying that he didn’t regret anything.  There was nothing he wished he hadn’t done, and nothing he wished he could go back and do.  That’s a gift.  To die without regret.” 

“And you’re really lucky,” Sam said.

“Well I think so too,” I said.  “But I’m interested in why you think I’m lucky.”

“You had something with Daddy that a lot of women don’t get even once,” Sam said.  “You had real love.  And now you have it again, with another wonderful man.”

I smiled.  I got up and we went to the Kol Nidre service.  Last year neither Sam or Adrienne were home at Yom Kippur.  This year, Adrienne was home, beautiful and pregnant with a grandchild Eric will never know.  We have a new Rabbi, David came to Kol Nidre services with us, we broke our fast with a private, home-made memorial service with Mark and Andi, on their new patio under their ancient maple tree, then went and celebrated the 60th birthday of Eric’s best friend John.  It was a fun party, a joyful conclusion of the Days of Awe. 

But my contemplation of atonement and forgiveness and the repeating cycles of life and death is not over.  The Rabbi’s stories and sermons are still reverberating in my head and somewhere in my heart too.  I’ve been weepy off and on since walking into Rosh Hashanah services without Eric, yet again, 11 days ago. 

I’m feeling lucky and sad, maneuvering my way past regret.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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