Gracious Gratitude
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Gracious Gratitude

Day 571

Yahrzheit

yahr·zeit

/ˈyärˌtsīt,ˈyôr-/

noun

(among Jews) the anniversary of someone’s death, especially a parent’s.

March 12, 2000. I’d say it was a day that I’ll never forget, and for parts of it that’s true, but the truth is that the vast majority of the day was utterly unremarkable. It was a Saturday. I know this because I had plans with some girlfriends to go out dancing. We were going to hit a blue’s bar, and then another club and then … .well … considering the particular bent of my life in those days, it likely meant coming home as the sun was rising.

We’d all gone out to dinner. I don’t remember where. We then went to the blues bar and stayed there for a good long time. It was late and the group began to dissolve, save for my friend Erica. We had decided we wanted to continue the night’s fun and so stopped at an ATM for her to get some cash. I waited in the car. While she was gone I pulled my phone from the center console where it had been stashed while we were in the bar. There were missed calls. Messages. Lots of messages.

That was odd. I’d been out with most of those who’d likely to have been calling. It also was somewhere around midnight on a Saturday.

I scrolled through. Every call was from either my brother, or my sister.

My blood ran cold and I knew. This was the moment I’d been dreading. The moment for which I’d been preparing for a while.

Erica hopped back in the car and looked at me. I didn’t say what was going on, I just threw the car into drive and hit the button to dial the last number — my sister’s phone. My brother answered. When he heard my voice his voice cracked, “He’s gone, Cath. He tried to wait for you, but he couldn’t. He’s gone.” He then stopped talking. Or perhaps I just stopped hearing anything.

Dad. he’d been battling Cancer on and off for a few years, most recent months being a full throttle attack. I’d last been to see him a week or so earlier, around February 21–22. We spent time mostly sitting quietly. Cancer had ravaged him and so had the treatment. He was a shell of himself. I remember the look in his eyes. Defeat. He was done fighting. I knew it. When I hugged him goodbye before leaving for the airport, I told him that I’d be back soon. He hugged me. He was so small. So frail. Not the strong protector I knew. I wish I could say that I remember him saying that he loved me. I wish I could remember his telling me to take good care and that he was proud of me. I don’t remember if he did or didn’t. I just remember having a sinking sense of knowing that it would be the last time I saw him.

The memory snapped away. Back in the car. Numb. The rest of the night is a blur. No. More like frozen snapshots whipped together with blank spaces and numbness in between.

I remember pulling the car to the side of the road and feeling like my ribs were being shattered from the inside.

I remember hearing a horrible wailing sound, and realizing it was coming out of me.

I remember my friend Erica coming around to the driver’s door and gently getting me out of the car, taking me to the passenger side, putting me in, then taking the wheel, and the phone.

I remember her softly murmured side of the conversation as she gathered the information about the flight they’d already booked me to go to Florida that night.

Back at my apartment she helped me gather things to pack. Took keys to my apartment and then trundled me off to the airport, telling me not to worry about work, my pets or anything else. She’d take it from there. I would not have made it through that night without her.

I cannot bring myself to write any more about that week, still. It’s been 19 years and there are moments like this when the pain is just as raw as it was that night. The pains are shorter and pass more quickly, but that eviscerating stab, that doesn’t change.

According to the Hebrew calendar my father died on the 5th of Adar II. That means that each year the remembrance falls on a different day of the Gregorian calendar. For the first several years I acknowledged both — going to synagogue to say kaddish, lighting a candle. Over time I shifted to just the Gregorian calendar date of March 12 as that’s the one I remember. That’s the thread of time I follow. This year, it coincides again and I find myself thinking about all that has changed, and the things that somehow seem the same. There is pain from this I have yet to fully process, I think. Pain that I’m coming to realize lives in that narrow space between what was and what could be. An emotional and spiritual bottleneck.

Tonight I light the Yahrzheit candle. Tomorrow morning I will go to synagogue and stand for you, remembering you and undoubtedly I shall weep. Some anniversary years are harder than others. This is one of those.

Daddy, I miss you.

My father, Stanford Brooks, photo taken June 1995 in Jerusalem

Today’s Gracious Gratitude. I am grateful for:

  • My dogs
  • That the words of old Jewish prayers give me comfort
  • UGGs
  • That this particular Monday is over
  • Remembering friends whose kindness protected and supported me when I needed it most.
  • Arugula
  • Quinoa
  • Sleep

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There are studies that show a simple practice of gratitude awareness can be a real game changer for productivity.

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