Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my mother's death. My sister Wendy came from Seattle with her partner, Catherine. Tom made dinner - a brisket that my brother Jack sent from New York. I lit a beeswax candle I made a few years ago - it was not an official Yahrzeit candle, but it gave a warm glow.
Today we lit the candle again and tried to channel my mother by drawing each other with pencil - quick sketches without looking at the paper, and then a few looking. With only a little practice we could see the improvement - a shading around the eyes or a way to draw curly hair. I discovered that a face could be drawn with only a suggestion of an ear. After we tired of drawing each other, we drew our parents from a wedding photograph. I noticed things in the photograph I never saw before, like the way my mother's suit was belted at the waist, and that she wore a little hat.
Too soon, it was time for Wendy to go. We both felt "transported" by the quiet concentration of drawing. In the manner of Yahrzeit, we read Marge Piercy's Kaddish poem, a poem of mourning that, like the Kaddish prayer, is not about death but the the promise of life:
"Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach . . . .
Blessed is light, blessed is darkness,
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let us say amen...."