It’s almost eight months since my father’s suicide. Eight long months of stumbling through the grief, every agonizing stage of it. And I’m tired, the kind of tired you feel deep in your bones. Perhaps weary is the better word. I don’t know. Does it matter?
It’s Shabbat. But you already know that don’t you? My husband is leading services, our daughters are with him at schul. Me? I’m home, again. Eight months later God, I don’t know how to talk to you. And it feels like the anger that I feel has put such a barrier between us.
I know that you couldn’t have stopped him. Well, part of me knows that. You are not the all powerful and intervening God that is reflected in the liturgy. And yet, why not a bolt of thunder that would have shaken him out of that dark and awful place that he was in? A loud crash that would have opened his eyes to all he had left to live for. I know, it’s not what you do. But it doesn’t stop me from being angry. It doesn’t stop me from wishing it were so. But it’s futile.
God, don’t get me wrong. I still believe in you. I still want to feel and know you. But talking to you was once so easy. And now… it’s not. I don’t know what to say that I haven’t said a million times before. I stand in synagogue and still, eight months later, I cry when I pray the Shema, I cry as I sing Mi Shebeirach, and oh how the tears still flow when I recite the Mourner’s Kaddish. And then there’s the rest of it.. all of that liturgy that speaks to you as the intervening God, I can’t believe in. I try to tune it out, because I can’t recite such words. How can I affirm something that would feed into the notion that you could have acted to save my father, but you didn’t. But even as I turn inward, the words reverberate as they are recited around me. Words carried on the prayers of my community, voices in unison speaking to you. Communal prayer used to bring me comfort. It made me feel a part of something, something bigger than myself. It connected me to my people, my traditions, the very roots of my faith. But now, now I feel like an outsider looking in. Words I cannot utter surround me. And nothing that I feel or face is reflected in them.
And when I turn inward, what do I ask for? Strength, comfort, a renewed sense of faith, of belief, of wholeness. I pray for healing. And I work so damn hard to achieve all of it. I am putting all that I have into facing this loss head on. But I long to feel you accompanying me on this path, this arduous, difficult, long and winding road called grief. Why can’t I feel you? Why do I feel so alone in your presence? And how do I find my way back to you?
It once was so easy for me to talk to you God. But standing in your house, your sacred space, the sanctuary where that eternal flame is meant to remind me of your ongoing presence and light, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. And it’s lonely. It leaves me sad and lonely. So it feels easier to stay at home, to not be reminded of how estranged I feel from you. Is that a cop out? I don’t know. Perhaps.
It seems that no matter the gender neutral language we have adapted over the years, somehow that childhood image of you, God, as a comforting, fatherly, paternal presence remains somewhere within me. Only, it doesn’t bring me comfort right now. I lived through a long and painful estrangement with my own father. And now, I feel it again, with you. Loss upon loss, layer after layer it all seems to collide. And my soul is simply overwhelmed.
God, I really do pray that, just as I did with my father, I will find room to forgive you. I don’t know, maybe right now I just need to hold some entity accountable for such a senseless & meaningless loss. And you God, have unwittingly assumed that role. It might be unfair. But isn’t this whole damn mess?
For right now God, I don’t have the strength and wherewithal to figure out how to stand in that sanctuary, surrounded by community and not feel alone. How to pray from the heart without feeling the liturgy piercing me with some false sense of your all mighty power. I’m too worn down to be reminded in such a stark way, of what once came to me so easily, but is now so very hard. My faith is shaken and there is an abyss that divides us. I want to cross it God, I want to reach you again. But I’m just too angry right now, too hurt, too devastated by the chaos that was left behind when my father left us and came to you. I’m sorry.
I hope you won’t give up on me. I know you won’t. And I won’t give up on you. But I need to find some more healing. And sometimes it is simply kinder to myself not to have to grapple with faith, after I’ve grappled all week with the work that grief, traumatic grief, entails. For right now that is the sense of shalom, of peace, that I need on the Sabbath. My own quiet way of marking another week, another day, another first, another step forward or back. I just want to sit in peace, rest my eyes and try to let go of all of it, for just a little while.
So, the candles will be lit. The blessings will be said. The Sabbath table will still be a place where we honor you as a family. Where I honor you, in my home, in my way… for now. And when I’m ready, I trust the door will always be open, in your sacred space. And we will find a new normal, you and me. Until then, take care of my Dad. His soul is in your care now. And I suppose, in some manner of speaking God, so is mine. Handle it with compassion, nurture it. It is the compass that will help me turn toward you once again.So we can begin anew…