Tisha B’Av and Dad’s birthday

On Sunday it will be Tisha B’Av – translated as the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av – and Israel will slow down a bit.  The 9th of Av is an unusual day in the Jewish calendar.  It commemorates the destruction of both Temples.  It’s a fast day and considered to be a day of mourning.  But many people in Israel kind of ignore it.  Employers offer it as one of the several days a person can choose to take off for religious purposes.  So a lot of people are still working – and according to religious laws, a person is allowed to work even if they are fasting.

For skeptics who wonder how it could be that both Temples were destroyed on the same day, well, it’s mostly a matter of odds.  In ancient times, you usually didn’t gather your armies in winter – Israel isn’t in the tropics, so we do have a winter – which eliminates at least 4 or 5 months.  In spring, you gather your armies and then you have to get to where you want to go, in this case Jerusalem.  By the time the end of July or early August rolls around, there’s a good chance you’ll reach your goal.  And because the Jewish calendar is lunar, the 9th of Av moves around.  So it’s possible that the First Temple fell on July 31 and the Second Temple fell on August 9, but they would still both be the 9th of Av. There are also those who go through history and point out all the terrible things that happened to the Jews on the 9th of Av.  Two often-cited examples are the expulsions of the Jews from Spain and England.

In Israel there are groups that march around the outside of the walls of the Old City and those who will likely ascend the Temple Mount on Sunday.  I hope it will be uneventful, but you never know.  The atmosphere in Israel is always combustible.

The day after the 9th of Av is Dad’s birthday.  Actually, I’m not sure how to say that correctly.  The day is still Dad’s birthday, but since he is no longer with us, maybe it’s more correct to say it in the past tense.  To me, it’s still in the present tense.  Monday is Dad’s birthday.  It will also be one of the “firsts” in the mourning year – the first time that I can’t call my Dad on his birthday.  His number is still in my phone, but it won’t connect, and for a minute I might say to myself, “Oh, he’s in a place where he doesn’t have cellular service.”  And that will be true.  Then I’ll have to remember that he won’t be answering at all.  That will be hard.

Like Tisha B’Av, it will be a mournful day, but one in which I’ll still work and I’ll keep moving forward.  As we all do even if our Temples, literal or symbolic, are destroyed.

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Mourning in the Morning – Pt. 2

Cynics who think everything is random chaos and coincidence should stop reading right now.  This post is not for you.

Those of you who are a little bit cynical might think, well, you know, your mind is focusing on certain things right now, so of course you’d be attuned to them and you would see some kind of pattern.

Those of you who are religious might see the hand of God.

And those of you who are spiritual on any level might just see that there is a force bigger than ourselves (call it what you will) that gives us what we need when we need it.

Carl Jung called meaningful coincidences synchronicity.  And unsurprisingly, I recently saw an article on the science of Synchronicity.

In mourning my dad’s death, I feel as if the Universe has set up a safety net that I can fall into and is shining a light down a path that I can take to wrap my head around losing my dad and find a way to move forward.

Before my dad left this world, there were a few cultural icons from my youth who died after short, secret battles with cancer.  I’m specifically thinking of David Bowie and Alan Rickman who died within days of each other.  As I was thinking about their deaths in the following weeks, my dad faced his “terminal” diagnosis.

My dad, David, died on March 1, which is coincidentally St. David’s Day in Wales.

When my brother called to tell me the news, my pants suddenly tore.  One Jewish ritual is to rend garments when mourning – usually the tear is closer to the heart – but since my garments spontaneously rended, they didn’t have a lot of choice and chose a path of least resistance.

The morning after I got the news, I had planned to have oatmeal for breakfast, but I was out, so I had eggs instead.  What I didn’t know until later was that the first meal for mourners is traditionally eggs to symbolize life.  Coincidentally, Mom, on the other side of the world, also bought eggs.

I had already made an appointment with my acupuncturist.  I didn’t cancel it after Dad died because I knew that at that point I needed it more than ever.  I mentioned to her that I was waking up between 4am and 5am.  In Chinese medicine, 3am to 5am is the time the lung meridian is active.  The lung meridian holds grief.

A few days later, I got an email offering a free, 4-part series on yogic breathing exercises.

A few days after Dad died I had a dream that I was robbed.  My house had been ransacked and I felt so violated and angry that it had happened while I was asleep.  I woke with heart palpitations and in a total panic.  When I mentioned the dream to a friend, he said that, in fact, something valuable was suddenly taken from me.  Ah.  Indeed it was. (Thanks to BR.)

The usual emails came in from various lists I subscribe to and they all had something to offer.  Like, a book advertisement for The Mourning After or a book recommendation for Cry, Heart, but Never Break.  An article on the new moon led to a site on mourning.

IMG_20160309_165720I mentioned in my earlier post that I didn’t sit shiva in the usual way, but I felt that I should do something similar and meaningful to me.  Luckily, since this is Israel, my local grocery store has a stock of memorial candles, including a special 7-day memorial candle.

As it happened, the candle burned for almost 9 days.  That allowed time for my friend to take me to lunch at a plant nursery and buy new plants for my sadly neglected boxes.  I planted the new plants while the candle still burned, so now when I look at the flowers, I feel that there is bridge between mourning my dad and the inevitable continuation of life after. (Thanks to MR.)

 

A few days after Dad passed away, Nancy Reagan died and the US consulate next door flew the flag at half mast.  I knew it was for Nancy Reagan, but it felt like it was for Dad too.

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Then there was the marathon (see my earlier post).

Once Upon a Time, one of several shows I watch, has taken all their characters down to the Underworld.

Even with all the coincidences, there was one thing I did on purpose.  I listened to a lecture series on Death, Dying and the Afterlife.  I didn’t buy it because I’m morbid or needed the intellectual stimulation.  I had suggested buying it for my dad because I thought it might help him get through his last months or weeks, though it turned out to be only days. As advertised it did celebrate life, after all, and I wondered how Dad would have responded to some of the lectures.  So as I listened and questioned and wondered, I felt that I was listening with Dad.

Little by little, day by day, I’m moving forward.  I am comforted by the synchronicity, the meaningful coincidences, that buoy me as I find my way in the world without my dad.

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David Brown z”l