essays kaddish in two-part harmony

killing you loudly—a kaddish

This is the sound of me wailing. Again. Kaddish project’s over, but death does not just up and disappear. So. Here we are again. Only this time it’s a bit different.

They’re killing you as we speak.

They’re cutting you and hacking you. Albeit gently and with reverence. But still. Limb by limb. Loudly with power saws. Rosh and I sit here and watch. I photograph your demise.

Is it my fault you caught your dread and terminal disease? It’s gotta be, right? I mean, everything else is.

Someone somewhere said that it’s the arch epitome of narcissism to take responsibility for everything, good or bad. But, no matter that, I feel responsible.  I’ve nurtured you over the last 17 years. I knew one day that would come to an end, but I thought it would be my demise, not yours, that brought our relationship to an end.

My neighbor’s glad, you know. Glad you’re dying today.

She thinks you’re messy and overbearing. She’s wanted you dead for a long, long time. She’s wanted me to kill you. Grind you up and make you disappear. She was pretty clear about it over the years. You hang over her fence and there she is cleaning up your mess. Again. Well, after today, that’s all over.

Vlad, on the other hand, adores you. He loves climbing all over you, resting himself in your arms. Your arms—not many of them left at this point.

Listen to the power saws. It’s taking five big strong men to bring you to your knees.

The squirrels came a few months ago. Don’t know who told them that now’s the time to come. They too have been ecstatic in your arms. Eating your abundance. Zipping along your byways. Happy as puppies on a sunny day. I thought, well wow, we’ve got new neighbors. I’m gonna enjoy squirrels for the rest of my life. But , no—

What did the squirrels know that I didn’t know?

Did they know you were dying?

Did they come to worship while they could?

Or did they come to pick the goodies off before they all were dead? Just little scavengers, after all?

Seventeen years! Of tending you. Pruning you. Worrying about you. And sitting in your shade. Planting plants below you that could handle your voluminous and incessant needles. Could handle your acid.

You smell like Christmas as they take you down. I’ve never had that smell at home before. It’s what I recognize from Rockefeller Center on all those Winter visits. A festive smell. You smell so deliciously and seasonably treif. As you are dying.

But here’s the thing. And there’s no reason it should have taken me by surprise this way.

With you gone, I can see the sun again.

By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

2 replies on “killing you loudly—a kaddish”

God, thank you!

And here’s the thing. Tomorrow morning our new arrival will be planted. A sweet Magnolia I’ve already fallen in love with. Bright and bushy-tailed, and eagerly awaiting to take up residence! It’s shocking how new life seeks out our full attention even as we mourn.

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