In exactly one month it will be the 10th anniversary of my beautiful daughter Ayala’s death from cancer. This year I thought of opening the usual small gathering of family and close friends at the grave for a informal memorial service, to those who knew Ayala during her short life and may want to remember her on this anniversary. I feel somewhat presumptuous to assume these friends would want to join us and don’t want them to feel that since I am inviting them they need to come for my sake, especially since I would not be joining them at the gravestone for the memorial. They would come for me but I will not be there.
I have learned that I need to mourn the anniversary of her death alone. I once joined the family at the gravestone and it felt so impersonal for me that I never did so again. I need my one-on-one time with Ayala and cannot ever be at the gravestone with another person. Even yesterday during my walk, I felt the need to go to the cemetery to visit her, which I rarely do these days, but when discovered people near, walked right through to the cemetery and out into the fields. I need to be alone, especially on the day of her death.
There are two memorial dates. There is the Jewish date, the 6th day of the month Adar, based on the Jewish calendar and there is the Christian date, 12th of February. I choose one date for me to mourn and the other date is when the family gathers. During my mourning day, I take the day off from the office, go to the gravestone, cry on and off while working at home. I let my children know that on that day I will be sad all day and will not laugh or play with them because I am mourning of their older sister’s passing. This is the only day during the year where I am depressed over her passing. On the other days her memory is a blessing.
During the second date in which the family goes to the cemetery, I am waiting at home with my young boys for them to return so that I can host a lunch that I have spent the previous weeknights preparing. I am there to help them through their mourning and be the perfect hostess. By the end of the day, the family goes home with happiness and love in their hearts.
Now back to my dilemma of whether to mourn or celebrate.
I am unsure how to commemorate Ayala’s 10th memorial anniversary. I am uncomfortable inviting people to come to the grave if I am not going to be there because I believe that they are also coming for me. I also doubt that many would come after to the house for lunch.
Yesterday I went to an event that was close to where we planted a tree in honor of my daughter’s memory on the one year anniversary of her death. Nine years ago the Christian date of the memorial fell close to the Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year for the Tree called Tu Be’Shevat. It felt only proper to plant a tree in her memory in a small oasis of trees that had been adopted as a place to plant trees in the name of those souls that passed due to cancer. I went to see if after 9 years the tree survived, which it did although the remained of the fenced off area did not. Although the oasis is still beautiful with a flowing stream, large rocks and a picnic table. This would be a nice place to celebrate her memory, right next to the tree that survived, as we all did.
My question is that if I friends, should it be a sad memorial at the cemetary or a celebration of her life and our survival after her passing. My instincts tell me that it would be nicer to celebrate her memory as a community picnic, but I feel like it isn’t my decision alone. I will still have my day of mourning when I go to the cemetery to mourn, but what about those family members who also are used to mourning at the grave. Maybe my friends would also prefer to go to the cemetery.
I think I will let the mother nature decide? If the weather is good on the planned day we go towards a picnic and if the weather is rainy then it will be the cemetery and our house.
When I started this blog I questioned whether I should celebrate or mourn my daughter’s passing but now I understand that every year I do both. I have my day of mourning and then I have the day of celebration where I host others and alter their morning of mourning into a happy celebration of her life. This is how it should be as life itself includes both some happiness and some sadness. We cannot truly feel one without the other.