Trip Log June 12: Legacy Part 2 — Kaddish


It’s not always so easy to align the human calendar with the forest calendar. Sometimes it means being open to surprise.

Last night began the 18th yahrzeit (anniversary of his passing) of my father Sam Coopersmith. I set out to honor him in the traditional way, to light a candle and say the ancient Kaddish prayer. But as the sun was setting and the wind kept shifting, I found myself multitasking: struggling to keep the candle from blowing out, fending off the mosquitoes, adding an extra layer of clothing, keeping things from blowing away. I went through the motions, but didn’t feel much connection with either my father or the forest.

This morning the weather is mild and calm. With the tent and camping gear packed and in the car, I’m preparing to leave and head north. In a way that I can’t explain, the forest feels inviting, so I‘ll give Kaddish another try.

As soon as I start saying the ancient Aramaic words, something shifts in the forest. I don’t really know how to express this (and you might be questioning my sanity) but let me try anyway: the trees are listening. The trees are paying attention. Why? I wonder as I’m saying the prayer.

    … May the Great Name be blessed and exalted, praised and sanctified …

Maybe it’s because so far I’ve been just another transient human to these redwoods, no more permanent than a passing mosquito. But here’s something older than they are, from my own legacy: this ancient prayer.

    … beyond all blessing, exaltation, praise and song, and comfort — that can be said in this world …

It comes through my father, and my mother, and their parents, and their parents and their parents parents going back some 3,000 years. That’s a time scale they can relate to. So they’re ready to pray with me.

Now my father, Sam, is present too. We embrace each other with joy. We’ve both been wanting this, the connection between where he is and where I am.

So here we are, all of us saying Kaddish together. The stream of legacy, flowing through countless generations, uniting us all.

    … may the Source the of Peace in high places bring us peace in this world. And let us say, amen!

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