Tuesday at sundown begins 16 Sivan, 5779. That date probably doesn’t mean much to many you reading this. Nor does the date 16 Sivan, 5769. But it means something to me.
That date marks a decade of life on my own.
A decade of yahrzeits.
That’s roughly one-third of the time I was married, and that sounds impossible.
That’s so long ago that sometimes I don’t remember what’s it’s like to make a “group” decision.
That’s such a long time that I have to think about whether or not it’s a movie we saw together. . . or something I saw after.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .
I still wake up in the middle of the night and automatically fling my arm out to see if Ziggy is there…or if he fell asleep on the couch downstairs watching TV even though he’s never been in this house and there isn’t a TV in the living room where the couch is.
I still stand in front of the array of herbs at the grocery store and automatically think twice about buying dill because Ziggy was mildly allergic.
I still wear a wedding ring. I don’t know why, but I feel naked without it.
In the low moments, and there are some, I think about what the Senior Son keeps telling me:
Look at everything you’ve done since Dad died. You haven’t exactly been sitting around.
A couple of days before he died, Ziggy asked for my dad’s anthology of English lit. When I gave it to him, he quickly found what he was looking for and read this to me:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
INVICTUS by William Ernest Henley ~ 1875
“That wasn’t for me,” he said, handing back the open book. “That was for you.”
A decade ago, a decade of yahrzeits for my husband was unfathomable. I didn’t know how I was going to get past shloshim, much less 11 months. There was comfort to be found in the progression of that year of mourning. Although some people told me it was only supposed to be a month for a spouse, I found that to be unacceptable. I had lived longer with my husband than with my parents, and the chasm in my life was insurmountable. I need time to figure out how to keep breathing. How to keep moving forward. How to care for his father (who lived with us) without rancor, resentment, or anything but the patient kindness he needed and deserved. He had just buried his only child.
Eventually I buried him, followed a few years later by my own parents. And breathing continued. Those holes all began close slowly. I miss them all. But the big hole that is gently filling with a decade of yahrzeits remains a gaping hole in my heart.
I try to remember I am, indeed, the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. Some days it’s easier than others. Tomorrow won’t begin one of them.
I am comforted, even now, amongst the mourners of Zion. And his memory will forever be for a blessing.