October 01
Male, Jewish, in my extremely early sixties, married with kids (well, at this point I guess that should be "kid"). Thanks to Lezlie for avatar artwork - sort of a translation of my screen name. "Salaam" is peace in Arabic, hence the peace sign. (No, my name doesn't mean "hunk of meat" and yes, the pun is intentional.)


Koshersalaami's Links
JANUARY 12, 2013 4:03PM

Tales of J: An Unveiling, a Yahrzeit, and a Cosmic Gift

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Previously Published at Our Salon   (by a few minutes)

photo gravestone 

Last Sunday was my son's Unveiling, a Jewish ceremony where we reveal the gravestone. It's tyically (but not always) done about a year after the death. The anniversary of his death, at least according to the Roman calendar, which is the one we're using, was Tuesday.

There's a tradition at Jewish gravesites. We don't do flowers; for one thing, too temporary. So, to indicate that someone visited, we leave a pebble or rock on the gravestone when we visit so there's some sign for the next person that this grave was visited. One of these rocks was sent to my wife. J attended summer camp on Martha's Vineyard for most of his life because there's a camp there for special needs people, mainly with cerebral palsy or Downs' Syndrome, and the camp has the unusual quality of allowing people who start there as kids to continue going as adults. So, someone sent her a rock from the Vineyard to place at the grave.

It was a sunny afternoon and the ceremony took a little over half an hour. My parents and my sister drove in from out of town. One old friend, who used to take care of J, flew in, which sort of surprised us. After all, it's kind of a minor ceremony, but she loved the kid.

The Hebrew at the bottom says, per our request:
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol Yisrael

That's explained in my original post about his death:

It's a relief to have a stone. Visiting a grave with nothing but overturned dirt felt kind of strange, and leaving rocks in the middle of unmarked dirt felt just as strange.

So we were at Temple last night. I finished playing piano at the service over at the old age home, then headed home to pick up my wife and daughter, then went to Temple. I was going anyway, because the Shabbat (Sabbath) after the yahrzeit (anniversary of death: "year time," pronounced "Yor tsite") is the service at which they commemorate the yahrzeit. The regular pianist got sick, so I got asked to play. That's fine with me; I'm comfortable at the piano, they have a really nice grand in the main sanctuary, and the rabbi has a tendency to call a lot of audibles, so I have to pay attention. Friday night services are pleasant and not generally long, followed by kiddush (blessing over wine), motzi (blessing over bread, in this case always a Challah except on Passover), then an oneg (table of snacks - basically a few things to eat, usually cookies, maybe fruit and cheese, brownies, whatever - people hang out and socialize). During the service, they give out Hershey's kisses to the congregants, which we exchange just after blessing each other with the Priestly Blessing (May the Lord bless you and keep you....).

The first yahrzeit is important because it marks the end of the year of mourning, during which we said the mourner's kaddish, our main prayer for the dead (which actually doesn't mention death at all), a minimum of once a week in the company of a prayer quorum of ten adult Jews over the age of thirteen, otherwise known as a minyan. Wherever we were, we'd find a service. Though I was going to services at the old age home once a week, most of the time they didn't have a minyan so I'd go to a second service. Incidentally, the first week after death, saying kaddish with a minyan is a daily requirement.

We have a tradition at our Temple. Apparently, back in 2004, whichever network Ted Koppel was at refused to carry a special where he read the names of the 750 or so American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan so far. This is before we moved here. So, the rabbis decided to read the names of that week's dead every week, to be included in the mourner's kaddish part of the service. (There's another kind of kaddish earlier in the service, which is why I specify Mourner's.) Every week the names are read, and sometimes the names aren't available, so the list would finish with something like "and two others whose names have not been released pending notification of next of kin."

Last night, at the service where J's yahrzeit was observed and announced, something different happened, something that felt a bit like a miracle:

For the first time since the tradition started in 2004, a tradition which has been observed weekly since then,

There were no war dead to announce.

Blessings sometimes appear in very strange ways.

Have a good week.

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What a wonderful heartfelt piece to read. Hard to believe it's already been a year. peace... to reign among us...peace to you Kosh and your family.
Thank you. I appreciate it. Yup, it's been a year.
Peace. And what a nice thing to happen at the ceremony - no war names.
I thought that you'd never come back to this joint, but you did. Glad to hear that there was some good news at the temple. I might even start posting here again.
I'm not primarily here, but as of yesterday this place is working, so I'll continue to double-post here.
Death is as impermanent as life Kosher. You might as well go with the flowers.
koshersalaami has sent you a message in the Open Salon network

"Oh ye of little faith!"
Thank you for your comment on my piece. I am glad to have found you. This post is heart-wrenching, but hopeful, in the end, and that is well, that is my life. Peace to you.
I love the idea of the pebble, I always wonder who has been to visit my son and seeing a sign, however small, would be heartwarming. I may need to incorporate this tiny act into my son's death saga...
I am, again, so very sorry for your loss.
Thank you. Of course, visitors would have to know that that would be expected. Being Jewish, we have the advantage of knowing that other Jews will do that.
Sometimes it's spelled Yorzeit. That's really how it's pronounced in Yiddish. I'm not using a J because it would confuse the crap out of non-German speakers.
There's cross-pollenization all over the place, like we've been discussing in e-mails.
This is such a wonderful description of the rituals interwoven with our faith and your life... with warm undertones of love and acceptance pervading it all. As you might know, my dear friends lost their 23 yr old son Dec 28 in a car accident. They're just beginning their journey of the first year, and, of course, a lifetime. I will share it with them. Please, if you're willing, place a loving pebble on J's stone from me.
Of course I will. No, I was not aware of the death of the son of your friends. My condolences.

I've been inundated with death lately. I was at a funeral today. The mother of a close friend of my wife's committed suicide last weekend.