Monday motherhood: a year later

mom at easterYup, a year.  My mom died last December 9th and so it feels like a day of reflection.  Too bad we don’t have anything formal like the Jews:

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.

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  1. Holly says

    Brought tears to my eyes Joann. We in the West are so sure we can find a way to live forever we deny the reality of death. The denial holds us back from knowing our true natures. Thanks for sharing your remembrance of your mom. Here’s to her!

    • Jo says

      Thanks Holly. Yes, I believe Eastern religions have a better grasp on death and a more accessible way of dealing with spirituality while we live. Here’s to my mom, indeed. – Jo

  2. says

    Thank you JoAnn. Perfect. I am certain your parents would be more than happy with all of you, even with the profanity! I shall raise a cup to your Mom, too. And shall do the same for my Mom on 12/27.

  3. Mary Anne says

    The photo makes me smile. On my dad’s anniversary my grandmother told me we raise a toast and I have tried to honor that over the years – not sure that is really a custom but we are Irish and seem to take every opportunity. My preference is to let the death anniversary pass but still actively acknowledge the life anniversary – his birthday would be Friday and my family will get cake and we will talk of him more than usual.
    Tonight I will raise a toast to Joan.

  4. Mare says

    I miss her all the time too, Jo. Thanks for this beautiful tribute. Mom is clearly smiling in Heaven…burned hot dog in hand.
    Here’s to a life very well lived. Cheers!

  5. Kathy says

    Jo: I miss your Mom, too, and next week is the anniversary of my father’s death. I say we go for sushi! Happiest of holidays my dear friend.

  6. Anne says

    I still miss my Dad every day and it’s been 13 years although it still seems like last week! Agreed but laughed out loud as I read your words…my Dad and your parents would certainly be happy to know none of us are shitty people. Isn’t that all we really can hope for our kids?!

    • Jo says

      Anne, when all is said and done, yes – I hope my kids continue to be good people, to each other and the world at large. And I remember when your dad died. Has it really been 13 years? Thanks for the note. – Jo

  7. Mike Ragan says

    Just reading the words that you posted made me warm and a bit sad that I missed a few of those years, I am so happy that you are in my life. (She was your biggest advocate, and most likely, as a “good mom” did her Mike bashing) but deep down…I think your mom would be happy too. xoxo M

  8. Carol says

    Jo, you do honor your parents everyday by being the terrific parent and by being a joy to everyone who is lucky enough to know you. Your parents smile at you and all of your siblings all the time because all of you continue to make them proud.
    xoxo on this day of remembrance. Joan is missed and it is good to remember her.

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