Thursday, November 8, 2007

Parent-Teacher Tearjerker

On the way back from the parent-teacher conference last night I called my mom and asked her whether she was wanted to have a cry. I then told her the story Monkey's teachers told us.

Kaddish is an important prayer in Judaism. There are several versions, but the most well-known is the Mourner's Kaddish. Traditionally, there are pretty strict rules about who is supposed to say Kaddish, for whom, and for how long, but the more liberal denominations are much more relaxed about some aspects of it. Parents of dead babies, for example, are universally released from the obligation of saying Kaddish. Which is not to say that they (we) shouldn't do it, just that they (we) don't have to.

I was 16 years old before I ever heard of Kaddish, and I was 22 before I ever said it, for my grandfather. It turns out that, in stark contrast and on both counts, my daughter was five.

Monkey goes to a Jewish day school, which means that there is daily opportunity to participate in prayer. Kindergarteners join the school for small part of services several times a week, but they mostly do their own thing in their own classroom. Shira, one of Monkey's teachers, lost her father this past March, and so is still saying Kaddish for him. She told kids about that early in the year, but I didn't realize then that she says Kaddish at their "services" in the classroom.

The story, then. Sometime last week a two year old neighbor of one of the kids in Monkey's class, Leo, died. At their services, Shira reminded the kids that she says Kaddish for her father, and invited anyone who wanted to say Kaddish for someone to come up and say it with her. Leo came up to say it for the boy who used to be his neighbor. And then Monkey declared that she wanted to say it for her brother.

I looked at the teachers, tears in my eyes, and said thank you. For making it comfortable for her to do that, and for telling us. Because Monkey sure didn't. Kids being kids, though, a couple of times I wondered, for a fleeting second, whether some of the times and ways she speaks of A weren't mostly to score points, whether the hugs and kisses that I feel compelled to dole out to her as we talk of A and the bestest big sister in the world weren't encouraging her to keep bringing it up in ways not entirely organic. She always looks very sincere when she talks of A, so this has never been more than a fleeting concern. And to be fair, there have been times when she wouldn't talk about it for love or money. Yet, there was that tiny little piece of me that wondered whether in seeking to make it comfortable for her I wasn't overdoing it and encouraging her to bring it up simply because the topic usually comes with a hug or five. And not that she is otherwise hug-deprived in any way, mind you. That she volunteered to say Kaddish, and more than that, that she then kept it to herself, tells me there is no showboating here. Which then breaks my heart all over again.

11 comments:

meg said...

Julia, this school is amazing and so is Monkey.

niobe said...

What a sad and wonderful story.

Beruriah said...

Oh, Monkey. My heart is so sad, and yet, so glad that she has this support at school.

Beth said...

Ah, this made me cry. How wonderful for her, that she is able to honor him at school.

Magpie said...

That breaks my heart too. What a dear child.

Lori said...

This sounds like such a wonderful school! I am so happy Monkey is in such a supportive environment.

Little T prayed at school everyday during my pregnancy with Pumpkin. I didn't know that either until his teacher told me. It was touching but broke my heart too.

Tash said...

That is the most sad and lovely thing I've read in a long, long time. Would that all siblings had such an enviornment where they felt so moved, and so comfortable, to express their feelings. Monkey is a terrific big sister. Hug from me too, please.

My Reality said...

Monkey is a wonderful big sister.

Her school sounds incredible.

slouching mom said...

What a lovely child Monkey is.

Bon said...

a sad and wonderful story, indeed. sweet Monkey...

christina(apronstrings) said...

wow. what a sweet, sweet story. and frankly what i needed on, for me, a day on which i am more cyncial than ever.
what a sweet girl you have there.
*sigh*