This Tuesday will mark six years since Rachel died. I wrote the following on the one-year anniversary of her death. 

Today marks Rachel’s first Yahrzeit. I only recently learned that word. It’s a Jewish term meaning the commemoration of a loved one’s death. We don’t have anything similar in the Christian faith. In fact, most Christian denominations don’t have anything official after the funeral or memorial service acknowledging a death. We don’t sit shiva. We don’t have a defined period of mourning. We don’t dress in a certain way or proscribe certain behavior. That’s not all bad. We don’t have to be like Scarlet O’Hara scandalizing the town because she danced in her widow’s weeds.

But if we have no outward signal of the myriad emotions swirling around inside us, it can be difficult to explain our behavior at times. And even worse people assume we are okay, or back to our old selves, or over it. We’re not. We never will be. We’re normal, yes. Whatever normal means in reference to someone whose child died.

So even though today I start marking time in years instead of months or days or hours, April 11, 2017 will always be the starting point of my life now.

Five years down the road from that post, I still don’t know how to commemorate this date. And in many ways, I don’t want to. I can’t forget it; it’s etched on my mind and heart. It hurts. It makes me cry. I appreciate it when others remember and express their condolences. But, mostly it leaves me feeling numb, empty, and bewildered. I definitely feel like my life is divided between before and after. I also feel like there should be some symbol, a talisman perhaps, or a secret handshake – something that other bereaved parents would recognize. There’s comfort in “me, too” isn’t there? Knowing someone else understands the hole in your heart.

So, one way I can commemorate this day is by opening my heart and arms to others who are hurting. By offering a “me, too” and an “I understand.” 

We’re all just walking each other home.

Ram Dass


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