Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Enlighten the Gentiles:Shiva

Not the Hindu goddess "She-vah", but "Shiv-uh", the Hebrew word meaning "7". It marks a 7 day mourning period after the death of a family member.

has a lot of rules but the basic idea is that the mourning family stay in their home for 7 days following the funeral. They sit low to the floor, symbolic of being "brought low" by grief, thus people are described as "sitting shiva".

People come to the house to pay their respects, speak of their memories of the departed person and to pray.
They usually bring food, though they do not expect the mourning family to serve any food to them.

I know of this from being from a Jewish family, but I've never experienced shiva. It's not something my family does.

Nanay, my mother-in-law died at home in New York. The family was there--those of us who live down here in Northern VA were able to get time off from our jobs.

My parents were there, to take care of the girls, to supply the meals, to let the Man and I do what we needed to do.We didn't have to manage our house, go to work.We were able to concentrate on mourning and on healing. It wasn't shiva in its traditional form, but it was a period set away from the everyday.

Tatay died here in Virginia. My brother-in-laws, niece and cousin were only here for a night. What needed to be done was done by my sister-in-law and by the Man, the youngest and oldest children and the ones who have managed Tay's care for the last few months of his life.  The Man took off extra time and I was able to take off some time too, but for the most part work went on, as did school for the girls. The rhythms of daily life were inescapable.

A week past his funeral the Man and SC and I are still emotionally weary. It breaks out in odd moments--moments when SC reports suddenly feeling the grief, moments when I find myself somewhere wanting to burst into tears--in ballet class, at work, when I'm suddenly alone on my own.

Moments when the grief and the sorrow overwhelm the Man and he either needs my comfort, or when the grief turns into anger--like the other night, when he lost his temper with SC over something minor.

We didn't have much time to mourn until real life dragged us back again.

I think shiva, like many such religious practices, goes far beyond its religious aspect.
I get it now.
I wish I didn't.

Hug your loved ones.
Abei gezeunt............

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