As with everything in life, you have to take the good with the bad. Recently, in our conversion class, we’ve been focusing on lifecycle events; births, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and death.
It was somewhat ironic for me to be talking about death as the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death approached.
For those who don’t know, my dad, Neal Rott, of blessed memory, passed away Aug. 11, 2014, as a result of the severe flooding that occurred in Metro Detroit. My dad was trying to make his way home from work, but never made it home. He was missing for nearly 24 hours before my mom got the news that he had been found and that he had passed away.
We will never really know what happened to him in his car on Bernhard Street in Hazel Park where he was found. While we don’t suspect foul play, there is some question as to whether my dad may have survived if the police would have accepted my mom’s missing person’s report and would have started looking for him.
Aug. 11 also happens to be my birthday.
While we assume that my dad died after sunset on Aug. 11, the headstone reads Aug. 12 because my mom didn’t want my birthday to be overshadowed by my dad’s death.
So when we were talking about death, I asked the rabbi to clarify for me regarding what date we would actually observe the yahrzeit. Technically, Aug. 11 after sunset is the same as Aug.12, so we have been observing it correctly.
He also told me that Aug. 11, 1985, the year I was born, coincides with the 24th of Av. And Aug. 11, 2014, the date my dad died, coincides with the 16th of Av. So if I go by the Hebrew calendar, my dad didn’t actually die on my birthday.
While I was harkened by this, as the day got closer, it made me feel as if this is never going to be OK. Whether my dad died on my birthday or not, the sudden and traumatic nature of the way he died is never going to change. Deep down, I know that I can’t change the facts of the story, but I can change how I deal with them.
But four years later, it remains an open wound.
It also makes me acutely aware that my dad won’t be here to be a part of my wedding. And that’s really tough. My sister and I both watched, and cried, at my best friend’s wedding when she danced with her father, knowing that we will never get the chance to do that. That our dad never got the chance to meet, and approve or disapprove of, our future husbands.
It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am today, to have found the person that I love and feel confident in wanting to spend the rest of my life with. And, I’m sad that my dad didn’t get the opportunity to see me truly happy and fulfilled in a romantic relationship.
So it’s a struggle.
It’s a struggle to be happy when this is supposed to be the happiest time in my life, but such a key person in my life will be missing from it. At the same time, it’s hard to be sad because I’ve met “the one,” and we’re planning our wedding and life together, and we’re getting married and pledging to spend the rest of our lives together.
At this time in my life, this turning point that has me filled with such mixed emotions, it’s helpful to have religious counsel. It’s helpful to have someone to ask the tough questions and get answers from a point of view that might be different than my own. But one question I have yet to ask the rabbi, but I think about a lot is:
I know that Judaism is based on the lunar calendar, so the yahrzeit date changes every year. But why is it necessary for us to have not just one day to mourn, but two (if we choose to observe both the English and the Hebrew date of death)?