Today was our last morning of sitting shiva. In the Jewish tradition, at the end of the shiva, we are supposed to leave the house and walk once around the block. None of us knew the reason for this tradition, so yesterday, we asked a few of our visitors. We received many different "answers," including:
1) to get some exercise after sitting all week.
2) to show the rest of the neighborhood that you’re done sitting shiva.
3) to take all your tsuris (Yiddish for trouble) and get rid of it by throwing it on the first neighbor you meet!
Then Sophia looked it up online and found the most convincing answer:
Walking around the block is a symbol of the beginning of a return to normalcy. Also, there is a belief that the soul of the departed hovers around during the shiva, when everyone is talking about the person that died. In the old country, the cemetery was located at the edge of the shtetl (a village). At the end of sitting shiva, the bereaved would "escort the soul" to its final resting place.
So many friends and neighbors came this week and said so many beautiful things about my father. At times, my mother and I gave each other little glances when the praise for my father went over the top. It’s hard to think of your father or husband in "saintly" terms. As kind a person as he was, he also had his quirks, and I’d like to remember those as well as his good deeds. My father did plenty of things that drove me crazy. He was a neatnik, a hoarder, an obsessive scheduler, and the slowest dresser that ever existed. But that’s what made him my father. I want to remember everything about him, good and bad.
I’m not much of a spiritual person, but even I felt my father’s presence as we prepared to take our post-shiva "walk around the block." When we stepped outside, it was a little windy, so Sophia asked me to go upstairs and get her a jacket. As I turned back, a wind blew and the front door of the apartment building flew wide-open. I didn’t think much of it until I went upstairs and found that we had left our front door unlocked from when we were sitting shiva and the wind from the opening elevator made it fly open, too! It was a little eerie. But just in case it was my father’s spirit, I said hello to his photo in the living room, and then returned downstairs with a jacket for Sophia.
We took our walk around the block. It was very emotional. But as we took each step, things began to feel a little more normal, as we were moving from a state of bereavement back to a regular life. As we came around the corner, we approached Shoshana, an orthodox Jewish woman who lives in my parents’ building. Even though she was wearing an ugly skirt, I said to myself, "She has a really nice ass." I guess I was feeling a little bit more normal. The wind blew. I’d like to think that it was my father, agreeing with me about Shoshana’s ass.