“After the grave is covered by earth, the son takes off his shoes, walks a few steps from the cemetery and says Kaddish, for it is a prayer that renews the world.” — Rabbi Joseph Caro, in his sixteenth-century code of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch
I said the last Kaddish for my mother this afternoon, as today marks the day it has been 11 months since she passed away. It’s not the last time I’m ever saying Kaddish for her, of course, it’s just now limited to her yahrzeit and Yizkor. Each day since last June, I woke up when it’s dark, went to sleep when it’s dark and filled the day with Kaddishes.
“Yisgadal v’yskadash shemey rabah,” I said. Glorified and sanctified by HaShem’s great name. With that prayer–that I’ve said perhaps 2,000 times over the course of these past 11 months–I completed the process of saying Kaddish for my mother. This afternoon in shul, I especially felt the presence of G-d and the presence of my mother. I had fulfilled my responsibility as a son. I brought my mother through the transition from life to death.
Through these past 11 months, through the disbelief and the anger and the numbness, I said Kaddish with one goal in mind: Say a beautiful prayer in the name of a beautiful woman…my mother.
Mostly I succeeded and many congregants in many shuls across the country that I davened in stood behind me responding in unison to my Kaddish. Y’hay sh’may rabo m’vorach l’olam ulomay olmayo. May G-d’s name be blessed in this world and forever. Incredible…because of my mother, an entire crowd of people is blessing G-d’s name. Essentially bringing G-d, even for a moment, into their lives. What I was doing, without realizing it, was helping my mother fulfill her mission and elevate her soul. And even more so, we were doing it together.
My mourning went in stages, from the most intense grief period prior to burial, to the week of shiva and its focus on mourning, to the 30 day shloshim period to the 11 months. Technically, I’m still a mourner for the rest of the year, but stopping saying Kaddish is a big change.
And it’s a change I think I’m ready for. I’ll miss the structure of having a time every day when I’m confronted with my loss and think of my mother, but it’s also time to stop being focused on the loss and to just try and cherish the good memories whenever they occur.
I have been asked by many people why I have done this. Not many people these days say Kaddish 3 times a day for the entire 11 months. I can’t answer for other people. I needed to do this for my mother, and for me, to show others how I honor my mother and her memory. Until just now I don’t think I realized it was probably the best way I could ever keep the commandment to “Honor your father and your mother so that your days be long upon the soil which G-d, your G-d, is giving you.” I committed myself to saying Kaddish for 11 months and it caused me to feel closer to my mother and closer to Judaism.
I am happy that I have been able to honor my mother and her memory in this way.
Zichrona liv’racha – May her memory be for a blessing.