Kaddish – A Memorial Prayer November 23, 1997

It seems so stupid to say Kaddish for a little boy.
Kaddish is a prayer of respect for the dead – for a dead parent usually,
Or an uncle or an aunt or a grandparent
Or maybe even for an older brother or sister.

But for an 8-year-old boy?
Who now has been dead for 22 years . . .
It just doesn’t fit.

I am sitting in front of a
Roaring fire in our living room.
When he died, we kept a fire burning
During the several days before
His funeral, and for
Many, many days after
He was buried.

Tending a fire gives me an
Activity, a distraction for the moment.
The hissing flames cry out
The pain that is still in me
Twenty-two years later.

I’m not sure why
I am so sad and listless
This year.
Last year I almost didn’t remember it was November 23rd again.
I find myself irritable

And very sad at odd times throughout the day.
This year I just want to sit and tend to the fire,
And not say Kaddish
Or light a memorial candle.

It feels stupid to say
Kaddish for a little boy.
He should be saying it
For me!

~ J. Shep Jeffreys

“The Kaddish is a prayer that praises God and expresses a yearning for the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The emotional reactions inspired by the Kaddish come from the circumstances in which it is said: it is recited at funerals and by mourners, and sons are required to say Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a parent… The Mourner’s Kaddish is recited for eleven months from the day of the death and also on the yahrzeit (anniversary of a death).” – http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/kaddish.html

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