The yahrzeit candles were lined up in a neat little row. We lit then as tradition dictates on Yom Kippur for our parents. It is a stark reminder that for all intense and purposes, both the husband and I are orphans.
You never think of being an orphan as an adult phenomenon. When people hear the word “orphan” it is Oliver Twist as a 9-year-old boy that comes to mind, not Oliver as a grown man making his way in the world. And I was luckier than my husband. He became an orphan some 14 years before I did. He was in his early 40s and I was in my mid 50s. We lost our parents when they, and we, were very young.
It is the Holy Days that remind me of my parents. Of course, I think of them quite a lot throughout the year. But the Days of Awe brings about for me, a special pause. I think about what was, and what will never be again. It is the recognition that no matter how much time you have, in the end, it is never enough. When people you love die, a hole forms in your life, and no — time does not heal all wounds.
It has been two years since my new status came about, and I am less used to it today than I was in the beginning. In fact, it causes me more sadness over time, as life goes on. I understand the joys that my parents are going to miss. I fantasize how we would share the blessings that are to come, and be there to support each other in the hard times.
We light yahrzeit candles to honor our parents, for who they were and what they did for us in life. But what it also reminds us of, is what we will never come again. I feel a huge emptiness on Yom Kippur. Despite being surrounded by my own family, I miss knowing that sense of security that having a living parent provides. Yes, I admit the truth, this is the selfish side of being human.
We never think about that as adults. But when parents are alive there is a sense of comfort, of knowing that there is a support system in this huge world that is there for you, and by extension your children. You can have siblings, you can have extended family, but it is never the same thing as your parent.
Even as they age, and you become the care giver, having a living parent is still a sense of comfort. Because they will always see you as the unique gift to the world that you are. They are the people that loved you first in this world.
People lose their parents in many ways. Some lose their parent through death, others through prolonged illnesses, others because a parent doesn’t necessarily deserve your respect or love. But in the end, we are all orphans.
So yes, this was my Yom Kippur. Staring at the candles and missing my parents.
Hashem is simply going to have to understand that He didn’t come first this year. Was that a sin I need to repent for next year? I don’t really think so, but who am I to judge my own failings? Yet, Hashem, above anyone else, should truly understand… and forgive.