Leningrad_Codex_Carpet_page_eThe power is out! I am sharing something I wrote in November 2010. I think it speaks to the spiritual practice of grief work and for preparing for difficult seasons of life. I am going to let it stand as a piece and not edit it on my phone! I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my past.

Often we think of Sabbath as Sunday. In fact, traditionally, Sunday is the Day of the Lord and sundown Friday to sundown Saturday remains the Sabbath time. Recently I went to Shabbat service at Kol Ami to experience the beginning of Sabbath, a dedicated time of reflecting on giving our lives and all there is to God. Going to a Jewish service is a little unnerving as it is generally in Hebrew, however, the Siddur (what would be like a hymnal) is written in Hebrew and English. It also has the transliteration so you can follow along. Whew! That allowed me to sort of keep up.

When I entered the Narthex to join Kol Ami during Shabbat, I was a little nervous. After all, I know what we think when new people come and visit us! Often it is “Hooray!” How odd would it be to become the new person again? And how odd is it to become the new person within a building that I know so well? When I entered, Rabbi Glickman almost recognized me. I said hello and put myself into context for him. He introduced me to a lovely couple in the congregation. I got there just in time to hear their tales of recent loss to Rabbi Glickman. My heart tugged because I know those tales of loss. It has been an entire year devoted to loss for me and to the dangerous work of going through this liminal time in my life. Late last summer we had to put down Sarah, our dog of fourteen years. In October I finally did some very heavy grief work for my mother. In February, a good friend at school died. And not only did he die, but I was the one who had to break the news to my school community. I presided over his memorial service. And then, the capper for me was the loss of my brother in May. Oy vey! And then there have been smaller losses since then. But these were the big boulders for me. The interesting thing that I learned was that each time a smaller loss, it taps into that bigger well of grief that has built up. So even a smaller thing like the ROTC soldier at Seattle U who was killed in Iraq recently, brings up the bigger grief and you have to deal with it again. Then I met Maria and her husband.

Maria shared with me at the Shabbos service recent news they have had of a close friend dying. And this was layered on top of huge challenges they have had over the last year. They are an older couple and have had to face challenging health situations that seem to be coming at them in waves. On top of that, they lost their grandson seven years ago. So these smaller challenges and griefs are tapping into that huge loss in their life. I was so very aware that even though there were many differences between us (religion, culture, age), that coming together in our grief to share the loss together on Shabbat as we recite the Kaddish together was an amazing experiment. Kaddish is recited for all who grieve and is an amazing response of faith. In the deepest grief, the responsive prayer is one of praise to God. It is:

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for u and for all Israel; and say, Amen. He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

I am also reminded of all the hurts that can come to us during this upcoming Advent and Christmas season. For children of alcoholic parents, for recovering addicts, for people undergoing the birth of a new way of having family, for those suddenly without family, for those who are alone, even for those of us who very much need to watch our food intake—it can be challenging at best and a minefield at worst. I think my wish for advent, for this time of growth, is that we all can embrace change and loss where we need to knowing that it is gestating into something new that may bring forth a beautiful new life. And in this time of gestation, that we may claim together, the magnificence and glory of our creator who creates peace for us all.

Love,
Terri

© 2013, post , Terri Stewart, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Leningrad Codex cover. This is from a very old mauscript of the Hebrew bible. A former possession of Karaïte Jews written circa 1010 C.E. The photograph by Shmuel ben Ya’akov is in the United States public domain.

WP_20131026_034REV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is Cloaked Monk. This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

8 thoughts on “Sacred Grief: Shabbat Shalom

  1. I’m grateful for this reflection, Terri. I’m at a point in life where loss is almost a daily bread–small losses, large losses…they all are a part of letting go that accompanies aging. I am so taken by the rituals of Judaism and the significance of the Hebrew Aleph Bet, the meaning embedded in each letter. I think that, whatever spiritual tradition we embrace, there is nourishment to be found in learning about other traditions.

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    1. I absolutely agree, Victoria. I think there is nourishment in all traditions. Sometimes it is like a buffet table where we can taste the best each has to offer! And sometimes like a family dinner where we delve deeply into one cuisine or another. It’s all goodness in my book.

      Going through all those bites of daily bread – (can we imagine Challah? then Eucharist? then the bread and the respect that Prophet Muhammed taught?) – can be tough. Take care of yourself during this season.

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  2. Thank you for posting despite the computer challenge. I haven’t a clue how that is done with a phone. Phew!

    What a lovely post, so touching and so perfect. It would seem we are always dealing with the loss of someone or some circumstance in our lives. Whether our grief births a new way of life or a new way of being in the world, perhaps with more compassion, it is an import process and you highlight the complications with such grace.

    Many blessings,
    Jamie

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  3. I think of my father saying when my sister died, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away: blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Now this same wisdom comes to me in Buddhism phraseology: attachment causes suffering. Strange as it seems, the hardest thing is letting go of hurt. Why would we want to hang on to this grief? So many complicated reasons….

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    1. Yes, so many complications! For whatever reason (because I’m insane maybe), the following quote from the Princess Bride popped into my mind: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Sometimes I think that life is about navigating pain and how we respond to grief. Do we attach? or do we let go? or do we transform it?

      Thanks for the thoughtfulness!

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