The Return

“I never said the Mourner’s Kaddish for my father. We’d been out of touch for years. Both of us were to blame-more of a kind of omission than anything else-we had better things to do than spend time with each other. He was happy to have his life back when I left for college and I couldn’t wait to be free of his benign dictator ways.”

“From what I heard, his death was brutal and exacting-MS topped off with a case of pneumonia that ultimately killed him-not hard to do, given his withered state. I flew home for the funeral, but decided to stay in the hotel lounge and commiserate with strangers rather than deal with my extended family’s repressed emotions breaking loose afterwards at his house. I don’t know if that was smart or just selfish.”

“I will admit I thought about how things could have been had we bonded more when I was a kid. That was a normal reaction when a parent dies, but I didn’t linger over it. My friends saw me as uncaring, but that wasn’t completely accurate. Time and distance do as much to break the ties as anything else and there wasn’t much there to be broken.״

“You must be wondering why I’ve come this Shabbat to say Kaddish. It’s because he brought me into this world and I know that I need faith in my life. For us, as Jews, we value ritual and tradition. No matter whether I loved my father, I owe him this. It is my duty as an only child and I’ve shirked my duties for years now. I want to look at myself in the mirror and see the spark of dignity, the beginning of a new phase. Today is that day.”

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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