This week is my mother's yahrzeit, the anniversary of her death in 1988. Formally, Jewish tradition mandates the kindling of a candle, attendance at the synagogue where the Kaddish is recited, the study of Torah in memory of the deceased , and donating charity, giving 'zedakah.'
Yahrzeit is also the occasion for inner reflection. The day is doubtlessly a sad one on which painful feelings of loss re-emerge. Memory fuels sadness, reviving a sense of mourning and grief.
In my musings about my mother, I stretch my heart to touch the feelings of gratefulness and in that way pay the highest tribute to her memory. Ironically, my mother was not a person who experienced gratefulness easily. She struggled with a gnawing inability to be grateful, instead insisting that life was unfair. She was a beautiful, intelligent and loving women, utterly devoted to her family. Objectively her life was a successful one- a healthy and considerate family with children who were well taken care of , who enjoyed the advantages of a comfortable household, excellent educational opportunities, and many moments of fun and joyful recreation and leisure.
Like all parents, she was not perfect. I am certain that psychiatrists offices everywhere echo with the cries of complaint from patients finding fault with their parents for imperfect upbringing. Focusing on the faults of mothers and fathers, we often strain to discover and acknowledge reasons for gratefulness in our consideration of the parental care with which we were raised.
As I recite the kaddish, as I glance at the flickering yahrzeit lamp, as I simply sit and think about my mom, I try to transcend childhood disappointments and grievances and remember reasons for being grateful to my mother at this time-for her gift of life, for her myriad moments of sacrifice and worry, for her decency and kindness to others, for her doing the best that she possibly could. Perhaps the greatest gift of parenthood for oneself is arriving at the mature understanding of what being a parent really entails, discovering and realizing at last, how grateful we can be for our own parents .
Jewish tradition reminds us that the creation of life is the product of a three-fold partnership: God, father and mother. As we are grateful to God for life in its fullness and all-embracing blessing, so too can we experience a sense of gratefulness for our parents, of blessed memory, acknowledging our thankfulness for their undeniably precious gift to us, that of life itself.
May I always be granted the gift of gratitude for my mother , may she rest in peace.