A New Year, Another Year

I sit in Temple, listening to the familiar Rosh Hashanah prayers. Eric is beside me, in his brown and black tweed sports jacket, reading along with the Hebrew. He taps me on the shoulder and points at something in the text, some letters I might recognize. He wants to teach me to read Hebrew.

Except he isn’t and he doesn’t and he won’t. This is the 13th Rosh Hashanah when he hasn’t sat beside me, but I still feel him there every year.

Today I sat behind a family I’ve known since Eric and I joined the Temple in 1981. Two daughters, a husband and wife. The older daughter is Sam’s age and they went through Temple school together. The mother worked in the same hospital as Eric and was principal of the Temple school for many of the years Eric was a teacher.

They switched seats often during the service, standing for a prayer and then shifting around. They chatted and put their arms across each others’ backs and tapped hands and leaned against a shoulder off and on. I loved watching their connection and affection and wondered what it feels like to have the same husband for all those years, to have your mother and father still together, to have a family unit uninterrupted by loss.

My kids and I have the kind of connection and affection I witnessed today, but there’s that hole that never goes away. We’ve walked a long way through our grief and are all living lucky lives in so many ways. But still, there’s a particularly piercing sadness during these High Holy Days that meant so much to Eric. I think about how life would be if Eric was still here — would we all be together at the Temple, would we each be living where we are now, with the same partners, the same work?

Probably not for most of those questions. But I still have Eric’s jacket and it’s back hanging in my study, a trick I thought of two years ago. I can almost see him in it. He’s smiling, watching me at my desk, happy to know I’m writing, happy to know that the kids and I are okay.

Sometimes we’re sad, but we’re okay.

 

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9 Replies to “A New Year, Another Year”

  1. Shana tova Gracie. This was a beautiful piece you wrote and shared with us. Your writings are very inspirational and personally meaningful. I sense the fact that the ritual of returning to Temple on the holidays, something you have consistently done and when possible, as a family, resonated deep in your soul. I feel similarly and when I hear the Rosh Hashana prayers as I did today for example, the High Holy Day special chanting of the half-Kaddish (which separates parts of the service), it brought me back to the times growing up with my father and attending the same service in Waterbury where it was chanted in the same manner by our illustrious choir brought in from NYC. Like you, I also feel the loss of family members, in my case taken away because of death, divorce and parental alienation. And that loss hurts creating a hole that can’t be filled and aspirations for what I can not attain for these connections are severed. So I go forward processing all this accepting my alone-ness and satisfied that while allowing change to happen with me, as a skilled helper, I am also facilitating positive change and transformation in others.

    1. Thanks, Steve. I hope you’re still writing. I’ll look for you next week so we can have a chance to say hello. I hope all is well in your family.

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