It’s common knowledge that as we get older, we become more aware of time. It seems to pass more quickly than in our youth, with the months and years marching past so fast that we feel dizzy.
When my father died, I initially counted his absence in days. It was important to do so because for the first 30 days, I wore a torn ribbon over my heart as an outward sign of my inward grief. Once those 30 days passed, I still counted in days, ensuring that I recited the Mourner’s Kaddish each evening before saying the Sh’ma. As time passed, I began marking the loss of him in weeks. Every Friday, I’d say to myself, “It’s been X weeks since Dad died.”
It was until I was probably on week 35 or so that my friend Elizabeth pointed out to me (over a delicious lunch of cheese enchiladas) that maybe, just maybe, that wasn’t the healthiest approach. My need to hang on to those weekly markers was preventing my heart from starting to heal.
So I let the counting go. I stopped marking the calendar, stopped glaring at the 21st of every month because it signified another month without Dad’s sense of humor in my life.
And then we hit the big mark – 12 months, 365 days, 525,600 minutes.
And then we passed it.
Time has returned to the pre-grief days where it seems to be flying by. Days and weeks and months whizzing past in a flurry of work, campouts, bills, and mundane life.
And then, at sundown last night, the Hebrew month of Elul arrived. It is the final month of the Jewish year, a time to get ready for the arrival of the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time to slow down and, yes, count the days. This is a month we use for reflection and accounting. Who have we wronged in the past year? What have we done that we wish we could fix? What could we have done better? To whom do we owe apologies?
Time won’t slow down, of course, because it never slows down. But with the arrival of Elul, I need to slow down. During the High Holy Days last year, I was still blind with grief. Its claws were clasped around my neck, cutting off my air. This year, grief rides along side me, silent, but still there. The pressure of it has lessened and has settled into an ache that nothing can reach. So the upcoming holidays will feel different this year than last, and that’s a good thing. This is my favorite time of year, one I anticipate all year long. While we typically use the month of Elul to evaluate our souls, I also use it to repair my heart. It’s been pretty bruised this past year, but it’s slowly starting to fill in again thanks to the unwavering support of my husband, the love of family and friends, and of all things, the passage of time itself.
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