Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Life Got In My Way

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, life got in my way. My mother was in a car accident (nothing broken but very bruised and battered), and I found myself on a plane to New York once again, this time to spend a whole week caring for her. No Kil Nidre service for me. No Yom Kippur spent with my family and community. No leading a morning meditation. No chance to speak face to face with my family or friend and to apologize for the sins I might have committed against them over the past year.

I spent a good part of the days prior to leaving anguishing over the fact that I would have to spend the week with my mother. Not that I didn’t want to care for her; I did. I just wasn’t sure I could handle being in her energy for that long, especially given the circumstances. Even under good circumstances I have trouble being with her for more than a few days; then we begin to argue. A week together, I was sure, would be terribly trying, and I didn’t want to lose my temper while she was in pain and suffering. I wanted to go and be compassionate and helpful and supportive and to care for her in a loving and understanding way. (Does this sound at all like an earlier blog?) But I got all the kvetching done before I left, and I arrived in New York ready to do what I began calling t’shuvah in action. I would do my Yom Kippur repentance and contemplation while caring for my mother. And I did.

In fact, with the energy of that week, which is about t’shuvah, turning back to God and to your best self – and which sets the tone for the rest of the year, I cared for my mother as best I could. And I didn’t lose my temper. And I tried to speak from my heart when I was aggravated or upset, and I was more understanding and compassionate than I usually manage to be in her company.

I went to bed on Erev Yom Kippur and read my siddur alone. I walked my mother’s dog on Yom Kippur morning and spoke aloud of my sins as I traveled the road of my youth. “Al chet…for the sins (the missed marks) I have committed by….” and I filled in the blanks. When the sun had already set, I had time to read, once again, my siddur. It didn’t feel like Yom Kippur, but I knew it was.

If nothing else, I felt I had acted differently. I had set a new target for myself in coming to New York, and I had done a fairly good job of hitting it. Not a bad way to begin the New Year and to end Yom Kippur.

I missed hearing my son blow the shofar at the end of Neilah. I didn’t sit with my husband as he mourned the passing of his father during Yiskor. I wasn’t there to break fast with my community. I only had the chance to hurriedly tell my husband and my kids over the phone that I was sorry for anything I had done that had hurt them without being very specific or thoughtful. But I made pot roast for my mother – enough to freeze so she’d have several more meals after I returned to California. I felt as if I made amends for the last time I was in New York, when I did yell at her and left feeling pretty lousy about how I had behaved with her. I spent a week giving of myself and being more concerned with her needs than with my own. I behaved in a way of which I was proud. I learned a little about myself, and took into consideration my mother’s point of view a bit more than usual. I helped someone in need – someone I love. I returned to New York glad to go home to my family but sad to leave my mother alone.

All in all, not a bad way to have spent Yom Kippur and to have started the New Year. So, maybe life didn’t get in the way after all. Maybe life happened just perfectly. Isn’t that they way it usually happens – at least when we look back objectively?

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