Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sitting Shiva

I can't remember if I've posted about my heritage before, so sorry if I repeat something.

My mother was raised Jewish, and my father was raised Southern Baptist. I was raised around both the Jewish tradition (at least partly) and the Christian faith. My being raised in that way, with Christmas and Hanukkah being celebrated side by side, is a big part of what led me to the Catholic Church (at least, initially). The first time I heard Mass on the radio (EWTN, found thanks to a bumper sticker on a stranger's car), and they read from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospels, with a bit of very Jewish-sounding chant here and there, I knew that was where I was supposed to be. The more I learned about my newfound Faith, and the deeper I got, I discovered more and more of my Jewish heritage. I honestly never felt Jewish until I became Catholic.

When my grandmother died (my mom's mom) about 7 years ago, that was pretty much the last I saw of most of my mom's family. Then, about a month and a half before mom's passing from this world, we knew it was imminent, and she asked for all of her brothers. Surprisingly, all 3 of them came, made amends, and left on good terms. If you know anything of my family, you know what an honest MIRACLE that was. One of mom's brothers married a nice Christian girl, and they live in Georgia. Another one became an orthodox, Israeli-ordained rabbi and now lives in Missouri. The third one somehow became even more orthodox Jewish than the rabbi (or so it seems) and lives in New York.

Anyway, in the Jewish tradition, when someone dies, the ones left behind (at least, the family) "sit shiva". As my rabbi uncle explained it to me, "sitting shiva" means sitting in mourning for 7 days. During this time the mourning person is forbidden from going out or occupying themselves with anything other than remembering the one who passed away, learning lessons from their life and death, and reflecting on the family, its mission and meaning, how we might improve, etc.
Friends come and go throughout the day to "comfort the mourner" and in general to help them hash everything out and come to terms. In the morning and afternoon the synagogue's daily prayer services are held at their house!

Anyway, as part of this process, my rabbi uncle asked me to share stories with him about my mom, and qualities about her that I remember fondly. I don't know how typical this request was, as I was raised more Christian with a side of Jewish, but it struck me as very sweet. At first, I had trouble thinking of things to share with him, as I was still in "caretaker mode", and was experiencing more of a "guilty relief" (as Emma's godmother put it), than any kind of sadness at my mother's passing. As the week went on, and I thought of more things for him, and shared what others had said about her, I found I was getting back into "daughter mode" more. It really was a lovely, beautiful way of remembering my mother as more than my "patient" or "responsibility", but as the beautiful soul that God created her to be.

As I was sitting in Adoration this morning of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, I was brought to tears of joy and gratitude at the beauty of the last couple months, the many blessings that have already come from my mother's illness, how I was able to care for her until her last breath at home, surrounded by the love and prayers of so many people, and how our tiny, broken family has grown back together. I am so unworthy of all the beautiful gifts that Our Lord has seen fit to bestow on me and my family! I'm just awestruck at how generous He is!

Yes, at the young age of 33, I now have no more earthly parents. Yes, I miss the days I could call my mom, or go to lunch with her. Yes, I miss the free babysitting that was almost always available. But, I also now have 3 uncles again, I am left with a beautiful house in a wonderful neighborhood, virtually free of money worries, and the most beautiful gift of all: every time I start to even feel the slightest twinge of sadness at not having my mother, I feel this wave of warmth, peace, and love just wash over me, as if trying to reassure me that she is safe and at peace.

God is SO good! 💗💗💗

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