Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The End of Shloshim

It's been really easy for me to remember when the coronavirus became more than just something that impacted people internationally or on cruise ships. My dad's funeral was on Wednesday, March 11th. That evening, the NBA shut down after Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, Tom Hanks announced that he tested positive in Australia, and Sarah Palin was revealed as the Bear on The Masked Singer. It was truly a surreal day. 

On our drive home from Pittsburgh a few days later, we found out that my kids' schools and my office were going to be closed the following week. I went to my synagogue for Shabbat services on Friday night and Saturday and people really didn't know how to react. There were a few elbow bumps but no handshakes or hugs. This was also before people realized that masks helped. On Sunday evening, we hosted some friends for shiva, part of the week-long mourning period in Judaism, and that was really the last time I spent time with people other than those in my home without social distancing. 

Right around that time, many people around the country started to realize that a lot of things needed to happen online instead of in person and that included religious services. While my own synagogue hosted services online each week on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I needed somewhere for the other days of the week.

(Sorry. I've been in the same room as my first grader during his school day for months!)

On that first Monday and Tuesday, I found an online minyan (a quorum of 10 people for a prayer service) in order to say the Mourner's prayer for my dad. I didn't know anyone at that particular synagogue, and it was awkward with everyone trying to figure out how an online service should work. Then, I connected with a friend from college who just happened to be a rabbi. Even though she and her synagogue are several thousand miles and several time zones away, I started joining their minyans. So every day since I got home from the funeral in March, I've attended a minyan between my synagogue and my friend's congregation (with an occasional cameo at my brother's synagogue). While I wrote about much of this way back in June, the period of Shloshim* officially ended for me on Monday. (I also tried to explain what shiva and shloshim are in that post.) Before I get to the thank you portion of this post, I thought I would share some highlights from attending online services every day since March.

- Seeing a guy in his 70s without a shirt while eating breakfast at his kitchen table.

- Witnessing a family perform the Adon Olam prayer/song together to the tune of Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way. (It was truly awesome!)

- Being able to "attend" a Bar Mitzvah in Arizona while in my own home.

- Attending a B'Not Mitzvah and listening to three girls singing almost magically together.

- Wearing pajama pants for the vast majority of these services. 

- Hearing some variation of "you're on mute," "you need to unmute yourself," or "can everyone mute themselves" probably hundreds of times.

- Watching a recognizable TV personality on the computer screen as he attended the same service as me. He appeared to be wearing a Cleveland Browns sweater. 

(It was not one of the guys in this picture.)

It's amazing that my dad passed away 11 months ago in the Hebrew calendar. Being able to attend these services has really been comforting. With everything going on in my life and in the country during this pandemic, this has been the one consistent part of my life each and every day. I now have two separate communities where I feel welcomed. And yes, it's still a little strange knowing many of these people only via Zoom and never really having one-on-one conversations. I'm not trying to do a silver lining thing here, but I wouldn't have done services during the entire 11-month period every day in normal times. It just wouldn't have been realistic with commuting to and from work, kids activities, and even just driving to services. 

I want to thank my family for being supportive in me doing services the entire time. Thanks to both synagogues for having online minyans during the pandemic. And thanks to you for reading this blog post. 

* Update/Correction: Shloshim in Hebrew means 30, so the 30-day mourning period actually ended in April. There does not seem to be a specific name for the 11-month period for a parent, so I'm using the term incorrectly. Since this has already been published, I'll keep the name, especially since The End of the 11-Month Mourning Period isn't as "catchy" of a title.


Nichole Fisher said...

This was a lovely post. I have appreciated the other ways of finding community during COVID and your post today highlights that. My grandmother passed away around the same time and it's crazy to look back at that time as it was on the cusp of everything being shut down but we didn't know it or know for how long.

Amy said...

I know the recognizable TV personality you're talking about!!

Mom said...

Great post, Sean. I am so proud of you and Nick for doing this for 11 months. Dad would be proud of you as well. As Lee would say, we did a good job with you guys in spite of ourselves.

Sean said...

Thanks Nichole! I've written or said this before, but it's fortunate (and I know that's not the right word) that my dad passed away when he did. I feel awful for families that haven't been able to attend funerals or be with loved ones during sad times. I'm glad (again that's not the right word) that I was able to be with my family for the funeral and that I had the online community since then.

Amy - I'll admit that it was a little distracting at times watching the service but also seeing what that TV person was doing!

Thanks Mom!