A couple weeks ago, I had my annual get-together with my mother and brothers for a weekend of playing cards and board games, eating food, and talking. One brother brought a CD of Chopin etudes and preludes -- many of the pieces my father used to practice endlessly at home when we were growing up. Brought back a lot of memories, some of which we naturally shared.
When my Dad was killed by a drunk driver, we tried to honor his oft-expressed wish for no memorial service. But we were aching, and too many other people whose paths had crossed his -- as a music teacher, as a piano tuner, as a school teacher, as a voluntary fireman, as a Unitarian, as a musician for other churches -- kept asking us about it, and I realized 1) his life didn't just belong to us; 2) memorial services and any other sort of mourning isn't for the deceased, it's for the rest of us; so 3) in the end, it really didn't matter what HIS wishes might be -- he didn't have a say in it anymore, nor should he have. I waited until his next birthday, six months after his death at the hands of a drunk driver, to organize a birthday memorial celebration. We sang several of his favorite songs together, and shared food and stories. There were several men of my Dad's age who were in tears. It was a very good thing to do.
I'm not a Jew, though I often accompany Carole to synogogue services, so I've naturally learned many of the Hebrew prayers. Sometimes I chant them, sometimes I don't.
I ALWAYS say kaddish.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus