Intoduction. This meditation came to us with the permission of Sherri Alper. Sherri wrote this in a way to respond to what she said was often services that featured eulogies that portrayed the departed as “someone worthy of sainthood”. She added that “many of us are saying goodbye to someone who, being human, was not always the perfect mother or father. Death also ends relationships that were at worst, damaging, and at best, unresolved.” She this developed this meditation to provide an opportunity for “the surviving adult “child” to feel that there was room to acknowledge that the parent/child relationship may have been less than that perfect”. So, the following is Sherri’s meditation on what she terms “honest mourning” might be.
The months after the death of a parent are a complex and confusing time, no matter how that life ended. Sudden death is always a shock. It may seem like more than we can bear, reminding us, as it always does, the the universe makes decisions without us. Sometimes our lot is to witness a slow deterioration. That pain comes in smaller doses. We are caught off guard at the changes we see at each visit until the final time when the terrible piecemeal loss is over.
It is our final loss too. We no longer have the person in our lives who shared our earliest memories. Now, whether we were caregiver, distancer, or any of the choices in between, there are no more decision to be made when all is done. We are no longer their child, and the possibility of a different kind of relationship is erased forever. The “no longers” haunt our thoughts and our dreams.
Who was the person we thought we knew so well? parents are always mysteries: we never knew them as children; nor were we present during the difficult time when they grew into adults, no doubt with missteps along the way. We can never know their stories completely. Mothers and fathers don’t usually tell their children about their failures, their secrets, their broken dreams.
And what of our childhoods? Every adult has in some way and at some time been wounded by a parent, even while being nurtured and cared for. We are loved or hurt, praised or punished, over protected or ignored. We know our own histories well, but we never truly know our parents’. So many chapters of their stories are missing.
May we say goodbye to our imperfect parents, grateful for what they did for us and with an understanding that, like most of us, sometimes we didn’t get what we needed.
Neither did they.
Sherri Alper. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.