Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Power of the Day

What a difference a day makes... I knew it was coming, December 4th, my wedding anniversary. The day before, I was peaceful and quiet, contemplating that as long as I'm alive, joy is always possible. Then the actual day came, advancing each hour like a team of horses in a funeral procession, steadily treading against my heart until there was no holding back the grief and it poured out all over again.

In the tradition of my Jewish heritage, days have a power of their own. From my earliest recollections, the holy days of Sabbath and the festivals were charged with a palpable quality of sanctity and significance. About Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, for example, there was even an argument among the ancient Rabbis. Some held that the day itself had the power to atone for one's sins, while others maintained that people must initiate their own repentance to tap into that power.

Of course, it's not just the Jewish tradition that transforms particular days into extraordinary ones. Festive days and annual celebrations are hallmarks of every culture. Just as the seasons cycle around from solstice to equinox to solstice and around again, so do we move around the calendar of days, collectively as cultures with shared history and individually as people with our own personal stories.

Christmas, Passover, Veteran's Day, the Fourth of July...each day holds the weight of tradition for the group that identifies with it. Birthdays, anniversaries and other noteworthy events... each person has those special days that are laden with personal significance. Every time one of those days cycles around,  the memory of previous times is touched upon again and yet another layer of memory is laid down, imprinting layer upon layer of memory into the richly textured fabric of one's life. . 

So my anniversary came and with it, the floodgates of grief. Holidays came and will come and then his birthday and the new year, all firsts that touch upon memories of times that were so different. Despite ample awareness of how difficult these "firsts" are reported to be, I was taken by surprise with the power of the day. Knowledge of the process doesn't compare or even prepare for the actual experience. Grief has its own way and the power of the day helps it do what it must do.