- September 27, 2012
- Posted by: Dr. Elise Cohen Ho
- Category: Parenting & Family
This holiday of Yom Kippur began on the anniversary of my father-in-law’s death.
My father-in-law’s death anniversary also marked the beginning of Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is the holiest of the Jewish holidays and is a time for atonement and forgiveness.
The combination of these two events is a lofty and difficult one. For both there are traditions, there are things to do and there are specific ways to act.
It is an odd day for me …
To celebrate someone’s death anniversary while you are really celebrating their life is emotional. Helping them along their journey to the other side is sacred. At least this is the belief of the Chinese people.
My belief system is in progress ….
I look at my Jewish roots and as many of you know, or will know if you look back through some of my posts, I do not follow my Jewish upbringing. At least I do not in a traditional sense. I do turn to my Buddhist ways more than anything. This is not because I married a Chinese boy. In fact, when I married him he was not following much of the Buddhist way at all. In reality, through the years he had not really brought it into our lives.
I am, in fact, the parent that embraced Buddhism in this household. Raising our children with Buddhism in the forefront was important to me.
I do not believe that my (birth) family even really knew the extent of my Buddhist ways until my father-in-law died. But I digress as is the way that my mind has worked during this time.
For our Jewish observance I do not bring my children to temple. I am not comfortable there. My husband, being the dear that he is, left the Jewish decisions up to me. Further, he stated that if our kids went to Hebrew school then he would go to temple. After extensive research into local temples years ago I chose one to join. Within one month I withdrew our families enrollment.
The Jewish temple was not where we belonged.
At home we always have special meals at each of the bigger Jewish holidays (Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Passover, etc). We discuss why certain foods are traditionally eaten and we discuss the logic behind it. We often see my family on the holidays but never in temple unless it is for a Bat, or Bar Mitzvah.
This year, on the first night of Yom Kippur we did not do any of the things that are traditional to the holiday but rather we went out to eat and created an alter for my father-in-law.
Our meal was a traditional Chinese feast and on the altar was a picture of my father-in-law, Chiu Ming Ho. This was place alongside a bowl of oranges, a cup of Jasmine tea and Dunkin Donuts. These were some of his favorite things. My husband and I, along with each of our children, take turns bowing and burning incense throughout the night.
It is a sacred, heartfelt and truly wonderful tradition that my children embrace completely.
When this evening was over, I shared with my family that I thought it was a truly lovely family night. We were even lucky enough to have a visitor.
This time our visitor was not a dove, but rather a praying mantis. This is an animal that I have never seen in person before, but my oldest advises has been visiting him all week. This little guy fascinated me, especially after my experience with the dove. This little guy jumped on to my truck and did not leave for quite some time. The kids and I were all in the vehicle and I opened the window with concern that the little guy would get scared and run away. I was thrilled when he did not. I took many pictures of him and he still stayed. When I spoke he turned his face to look at me.
After much time sitting in the parking lot and not wanting to leave, I finally had to drive away as my husband was waiting for us. I drove slowly as I did not want to hurt this beautiful creature and he was still hanging onto my truck. My husband came to the car to see the praying mantis and was equally as fascinated as I was. He also took many pictures and spoke to him. The kids did the same and each time he looked at the person that was speaking. Over dinner we discussed that one of the earliest mantis references is in the ancient Chinese dictionary, Erya, and it is said to represent courage and fearlessness. The praying mantis is meant to bring peace, patience and stillness.
When we returned to the car the praying mantis was gone.
Our sense of wonder was not…..
Thank you for your support on this journey. if you would like to read more about traditions surrounding around my father-in-law’s death I am listing them for your convenience.