Friday, April 3, 2015

A plague of loss

One of the many things I cherish about my relationship with Kevin is our approach to the Holy. Kevin was a faithful Christian. I am a struggling Jew. We had many conversations about what it means to have faith and how that faith could be expressed. This was one of the things that bound us to each other in the early days of our relationship; it was one of the things that helped us navigate the end.

Though Kevin and I came from different traditions and had different understandings of faith, god and spirituality, we found common ground. We respected each others beliefs, talked about it frequently and eventually built new rituals that honored us both. The new traditions honored religious calendars, community and common ground between us. Many of you may have heard about or participated in our Christmas celebrations. Far fewer knew about our Passover celebration.


I was raised in a secular home. It was only once I was involved with Kevin that I really began to explore what it means to have more than 3,000 years of history behind me. While I am unlikely to ever be deeply observant, being Jewish has become an important part of my identity, one that is tightly bound to my Christian husband.

Enraged beasts

As I explored more of my own heritage, with Kevin's encouragement, I found that I particularly love Passover. I love the ritual and story of it, that it celebrates freedom and memory and does so through food and narrative. Kevin and I attended friends' Seders and then began to host our own. It was another piece of common ground for us, as descendants of enslaved people and as people questing for our own understanding of the world.

Cattle disease

Every year I would consider the Seder and the story told. I would look to my own heart for the parts that had the most meaning. I developed my own Haggadah and sought a deeper understanding of the ritual. Soon I noticed that the naming of the plagues always brought me to tears and I would find myself shaking as God forbade the angels from celebrating the death of the Egyptian firstborn, stating that all beings are beloved. It helped me understand the depths of enslavement, if it took something so terrible to break it. It helped me feel empathy for all people and helped me remember that everyone wants to feed their family, everyone loves their children, everyone grieves. I would encourage those at my Seder table to consider how truly terrible each of these plagues were, how they are more than words on a page and drops of wine on a plate, but each one brought pain, loss and grief.


Now, in my season of grief, this is even more acute. Before the grief was a theoretical thing. Now it is intimate and personal. Kevin's death and my grief feels like my own plague and I keep wondering what I have done to deserve such punishment. Of course I know cancer is not my fault. Of course I know I did nothing to make him ill or deserve this loss. But grief has its own language and own fickle logic. In the middle of the night my heart cannot help but ask why, over and over again, wondering if there was something I could have done to change what has happened.

Death of the firstborn

For the first time in many years, this year I am not hosting a Seder. I will go to a friend's home and say the prayers with her community. I will be the welcome stranger. I will close my eyes and hear Kevin's voice mixed in with all of ours as we recite the story together. And as we place drops of wine on our plates to signify the losses incurred by the plagues, I will add one extra.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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