On the Other Side
For ten months I stood alone in my living room with my contemporaries and said the kaddish prayer in the Memory Room. I stood looking out of the window or gazing at a photo of mom, or looking down at the floor or at the computer monitor but mostly I concentrated on remembering the words of the kaddish, on saying the words of the prayer. For months I don't think that I consciously paid attention to the sounds of the voices of others in the room as I tried to be conscientious about my own recitation.
On Sunday, for the first time I assumed the new status of an observer and an affirmer. For all of those months of saying kaddish there were a few people in the room who attended each morning because of their obligation to daven each day or because they are devoted to the success and continuation of community. I don't think that I have yet to thank them for facilitating, for giving their affirmation to the kaddish of others. Now that I am an affirmer instead of a mourner, I hope to have the commitment that others in the room do; to make sure that the mourners are heard and that the community is maintained.
I wanted to take a moment to notice and reflect upon the sounds in the room while mourners recite the kaddish. The first thing that I notice is that a voice is like a fingerprint. Everyone has their own timbre, rhythm, tempo, tone and texture. In a real, in-person room those voices are often mixed together, creating a muffled song. There are some whose voices stand out but the result is largely an uneven chorus. Still though, there is a rhythm that people follow. Contrast this with a Zoom room, where each participant is in their own space. People are less able to pick up the shared tempo and pace of the words, resulting in a soft (and sometime loud!) cacophony of different voices. If one listens carefully, the tones of each person can be picked out of the rag-tag chorus. Some people in the room use earphones and microphones so as not to disturb others in their homes and
through their microphones you can hear their breathing in between phrases of the prayer. That breath sound is very reassuring and beautiful and stands as breathy markers dividing stanzas of this ancient poetry.
There are so many different types of memories that people have. Visual memories, memories of touch and taste and smell. This is an auditory memory and it is one that will be long lasting because of its un-even nature, because of its imperfection, because of its humility.
It's a memory that I will keep for a long time.
Leaving this post with one last observation and that is that I never felt alone in my living room while davening in this little room. Whether it was the silence of the Amida or the recitation of the Kaddish, there is life in that room. It is a room filled with individuals, full of
different notes and sounds, rhythms and tones, psalms and prayers, hopes, disappointments and dreams. Maybe the room is just an echo of our lives?