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Not Enough Time

C. B. Gavant

Shivah allows those who lost a loved one to focus exclusively on the person they lost, and to start processing the pain. But when a relative passes away close to Yom Tov, that process is aborted. Mourners share their experiences of the intermingling of personal sorrow and national joy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In the month before Chavie’s father’s petirah, his children knew the end was near. “My father was sick for a year and a half before he died, and he spent the entire Aseres Yemei Teshuvah in the hospital in critical condition,” Chavie recalls. “Coming into Tishrei, with all the Yamim Tovim back to back, my brothers said, only half-joking, ‘He should just let us sit shivah.’ “On the night of Erev Yom Kippur, the situation began to deteriorate,” she continues. “I was in the hospital, but at three in the morning there was no change, so I went home. In the early afternoon, as I was preparing the seudah hamafsekes, I got a call from my brothers, who were still there, ‘Come quick, we need a minyan.’ My husband and I jumped in the car and ran over, and my father passed away 15 minutes later. “The levayah was at 3:30, less than three hours before licht bentshen. There was almost no one in attendance — even the daughters-in-law and the grandchildren who lived out of town weren’t there. My brother started to cry as he recited Baruch Dayan Ha’Emes, and the chevra kaddisha told him, ‘There’s no time for that now, we need to hurry!’ “We sat shivah for 20 minutes. Then my oldest brother said, ‘Enough crying, go home to your kids.’ “I barely had time to eat the seudah hamafsekes — it was already time to light candles. It was the strangest sensation I’d ever felt. What should I do now? Do I light a yahrtzeit candle, do I say Yizkor in shul tomorrow, do I go to shul for Kol Nidrei? “On Motzaei Yom Kippur, we all gathered in my mother’s house, but the shivah was over already. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Folding laundry afterwards at home, I said to myself, ‘The halachah says you’re not in aveilus, it’s Erev Yom Tov.’ But I just couldn’t absorb it all. Barely 28 hours after my father died, I’m sitting there folding laundry?”

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