daily kaddish: Ruth Leavitt Kadish on her Yahrtzeit

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Mira’s friend Lori Goldwyn’s mother died a year ago today. Lori was among those at Mira’s seder table this spring, when Mira and I made a Pesach Kaddish recording with the assembled before opening our haggadot for the traditional read-and-feast. Lori spoke during the seder about losing her mother the previous September and how much she appreciated beginning with Kaddish and hearing Kogan’s “Kaddish,” and Mira invited Lori to share her thoughts here in a guest essay.  Lori wrote this essay five months ago, and I recorded a Kaddish for her then.

Today, we gathered in Mira’s garden with Lori’s family and friends to say a final Kaddish together. Lori organized a simple remembrance, with each of us reading a short piece, Mira reciting Kaddish while I played Kogan’s “Kaddish,” and ultimately all of us reading the Kaddish together.

Today’s podcast is a recording of Mira’s and my reading during the ceremony, and we thank Lori’s family for giving us permission to share it here.

Lori read a piece she wrote about the rabbis of Chabad refusing to say Kaddish with her family when her “Little Mama” died, because there weren’t ten men to form a minyan. We will present her thoughtful response to that rebuff here as a guest essay soon. [Update: here it is!] In the wake of that, it felt like a privilege to me to be among the seven women (not all Jewish), two (female adult) dogs, and one (male adult) cat who formed a minyan for the Yahrtzeit.

After today’s “Kaddish” reading together, Lori planted flowers with a handful of her mother’s ashes in a quiet spot in Mira’s garden. Mira watered the flowers, and then we raised glasses of champagne and said “l’chayim!” To life!

Mira and I were both struck by how our “kaddish in two-part harmony” project has given this a role to play on somber, sacred occasions like this one. We talked together afterward about this and how we have unintentionally created something that fills a gap we hadn’t consciously noticed was missing: a place and a way for all—not just those who are Jewish enough or male enough or whatever else enough to qualify for a traditional setting of bereavement—to observe their grief, celebrate their lost, be not alone in their bereavement.

Today’s Kaddish podcast is the 320th recording in our project. Thank you, Lori, for letting Mira and me be a part of it.

About erin

Erin Vang, PMP, BMus, MMus, is Owner and Principal Pragmatist of the consultancy Global Pragmatica LLC®, offering custom JMP scripting, localization program management, and facilitative leadership services. She is also an orchestral horn player who freelances in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays assorted brass for the celebrated dance bands Midnight Smørgåsbord and contraPtion. More about Erin…
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7 Responses to daily kaddish: Ruth Leavitt Kadish on her Yahrtzeit

  1. mira says:

    Lori put together a beautiful ritual, just beautiful — and I was honored that she asked for it to be in the garden at Beit Malkhut. I’m hoping that this Yahrtzeit will undo much of the harm done last year by her Chabad trauma. Be sure to read that as soon as we’ve got it posted!

  2. Lori Goldwyn says:

    Yes, Mira – Sunday’s Yahrtzeit has indeed undone any harm incurred by my “Chabad trauma”! I was so happy with the ritual, and how loving everyone was in creating and holding the space. When that white butterfly started fluttering around Erin while she played her French horn while you said Kaddish, then stayed for the rest of the afternoon, I knew My Little Mama was with us. And I just loved the synchronicity that after four years, the first flower on the plant near the chrysanthemum we planted with her ashes bloomed that morning before we arrived. I couldn’t be more satisfied with our Kaddish. To top it off, the next day, Carol accompanied me to the Marin Headlands to sprinkle the rest of my mom’s ashes in the ocean; the highlight was sitting on the beach afterwards, watching 3 dolphins frolicking just off-shore – amazing!!! I love what you and Erin have created with Kaddish in Two-Part Harmony – thank you, thank you, thank you…

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  4. erin says:

    This will probably sound weird, and not at all how I mean it, but one thing of many that I’m grateful for about this project is that it has given both Mira and me something to say and something to do when people we care about are going through loss.

    One of the peculiar things about grief is how alone we feel in it—peculiar because it’s not at all something that should feel alone. Death and loss are universal. We all suffer from losses and eventually we will all experience our own deaths. And yet we feel alone.

    And we see others feeling alone, and most of us don’t know what to do about it. We send cards or write brief, awkward letters in proper black or blue-black ink on proper writing paper as Miss Manners instructs, and that’s about it. If we’re extremely close or live next door, we bring food over.

    If we’re observant or know that the mourners are, we might even sit shiva with them, but that’s more the exception than the rule for most of us, isn’t it?

    So we draw our faces long, we say “I’m so sorry!” in a voice that says embarrassment is what we really feel, we offer a stiff hug, and then we extricate ourselves from the situation—not because we don’t care, but because we don’t know what to do or say next.

    Mira and I know what to say now. We ask people to write their memories. We offer to make a Kaddish recording. We offer to post a yizkor with a picture.

    And to our great honor and satisfaction—I feel safe writing this in the plural, because Mira and I have discussed it so many times—people say yes, and they write, and they listen, and we all read, and we all feel a tiny bit less alone, if only for a few minutes.

    • erin says:

      Funny. A ritual is a practice, but without Mira’s pointing it out to me from time to time, I wouldn’t remember that a practice is practicing. When we practice, we get better at things.

      Bereavement is just like music. When we practice grief, we get better at grief.

      Who knew?

  5. mira says:

    I like our site best when we have Guest Essays. They demonstrate, more than our own posts, that we’re on the right track. That we’re providing a Makom, for lack of any better word, to honor those who have died, with honesty, grief, outrage, humor —whatever it takes. I think what we’re providing here is a place to be authentic, and it’s that very authenticity that helps us heal.

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