Yahrzeit is a memorial anniversary of death. On this day there should be no rejoicing, no eating of meat or drinking alcohol. There is a custom of kindling a yahrzeit candle at dark on the evening before the anniversary of death. The flame and wick symbolize the soul and body of the deceased. One also recites the Mourner’s Kaddish on this day.
Or the Chinese:
In China, a death anniversary is called jìchén, which historically involves making sacrifices to the spirits of one’s ancestors.
Or the Nepalese or Indians:
In Nepal and India, a death anniversary is known as shraadh, which means to give with devotion or to offer one’s respect. Sons of the deceased often shave their head on the day before shraddha. According to Nepali and Indian texts, a soul has to wander about in the various worlds after death and suffer due to past karmas. Shraadh is a means of alleviating this suffering. The first death anniversary is called a barsy.
Or the Japanese:
In Japan, a death anniversary is called meinichi, which includes praying, visiting the gravesite, and placing items on a household altar.
Let’s review: if I were Jewish, no meat or booze today. But my mom loved a good hot dog and a chilled glass of Chablis or Rosé, so in her honor, I’ll enjoy a Hebrew National for lunch but skip the wine (I don’t drink). My sister is Jewish and probably has a yahrzeit candle, so she can light that and say the Kaddish. I’ll just light one of the pine-scented ones we have around the house and sing Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.
If I were Chinese, I’d make a sacrifice to Mom. Here’s how I see it: as a mother, she made sacrifices all the time for the five of us. I do the same every day for my three. I’m covered.
Nepalese or Indian? My brothers have to shave their heads; that’s not my problem. But I’ll definitely do this shraadh thing because 1) I don’t want my mom to suffer anymore because of bad karma, though 2) I think she had very little bad karma to suffer for. Joan Egan was a great lady – a volunteer, a visitor of the sick, someone who offered her time, her home, and her good wishes to anyone who needed them.
The Japanese do this meinichi thing. Can’t I just go out for sushi? Mom was cremated so there’s no grave to visit or prayers to say there. An altar at home? There’s no room with the Christmas decorations covering every surface.
Yesterday, my sisters and I got together down on Balboa Island, which is where it all happened twelve months ago. We reminisced. We laughed and cried. Deep down, I’m not sure we know the proper way to honor the anniversary of Mom’s death. She was proud of us and the families we created. In essence, I suppose we honor her and my dad every day by being good parents and good siblings to each other. And on a global scale – or at least a community one – they’d be happy to know none of us are shitty people. Both Mom and Dad would be disappointed with my profanity, but delighted that each one of us is kind. In a world of knuckleheads, that isn’t always easy.
And so I raise my cup of joe to you, Mom. Miss you all the time.