Visiting my in-laws always triggers strong feelings of missing my father. It pains me so deeply to think that my child will be held by my father-in-law, but not by my own father; that my child won’t meet my dad—and get to know the humble and sweet, intelligent, and sensitive man that he was. In fact, this very morning, it being the 4th time we are staying with my husband’s parents in LA LA land (i.e. LA), it concretized in my mind that my next writing project could be to write about my father and compile all the lovely stories that family, friends, and former patients had to say about him. I am not surprised that this idea came to me while visiting my in-laws—as I said, it is here that I feel my father’s absence the most and miss him most acutely.
And the only thing that will ameliorate the pain of my children not knowing my father would be to write up a text describing who he was and what he meant to those with whom he was closest. In fact, I could even see myself devoting a whole room to my dad in our future home with pictures of him hanging on the wall; it’s kind of shrine-like, I know, but it just feels like the next best thing.
But I would be remiss to end this writing here, for I had another revelation this morning, albeit perhaps less major.
Our April visits to LA also coincide with my father-in-law’s birthday—as if I need another jab in the proverbial chest that surrounds the gaping hole that is the loss of my father. Thinking about this, I pitied myself and my situation even more. But then, this morning, for the first time I realized that my father is in fact with me during this time.
You see, four days out of the year in the Jewish calendar, there is a custom to light a memorial candle and recite Yizkor, a prayer for family members who have passed on. And guess what? My father-in-law’s Hebrew birthday coincides with one of these days! So when my father-in-law gathers his friends in his home to celebrate, the pain of missing my father is slightly abated by the presence of the lit memorial candle in the corner of the room, which symbolizes my father’s soul, and the Yizkor prayer that I recite for him that day. From this I know deep in my heart that my father is indeed there with me.