29 Teves 5781
I chose to have my shirt torn, rather than the more symbolic option, captured in a momento piece, a black ribbon attached to a black circular pin, whereof the ribbon is torn. Although, truth be told, I also requested the black ribboned pin, for a keepsake (untorn) that I still have to this day. Whereas, I no longer have my torn shirt, that I wore that day, and throughout the next six days.
“And tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the L-rd your G-d; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents of the evil” (Joel 2:13, Tanach Bible). Thus, the symbolism of the tear itself, has to do with the inner grief being experienced at that moment. This is done, right before the funeral service begins. For myself, and my immediate family members, this was done in a private antechamber, wherein the presiding rabbi enacted this mourning custom for us.
Now, that I reflect upon this, two years and one month later, this seems to be the exact moment of the official start of mourning for me. (The actual first seven days of mourning formally begin after the funeral). That brief time, wherein the rabbi guided us through this custom, was perhaps the most prescient moment, serving as an entry point into the mourning period. As I stood there with my mother, my brother, and my sister, there was a silence, as well as a kind of expectation, setting the tone for the beginning of the service.
Harbored in this small room, outside the chapel, even separate from the slightly larger room where close relatives were waiting to meet with us, before the actual sevice, there was a sense of refuge, akin to the calm, when light rain begins to pitter patter on a rooftop, while those inside the house, are quietly waiting out the impending downpour.
Of course there was no downpour, neither actual, nor symbolic. Yet, this quiet moment served as an insular guard against exposure to the many people who were waiting to attend the funeral service. Entering the room adjoining the chapel, close relatives were quietly waiting amongst themselves. There were small bottles of water in strategic positions, with clear plastic cups next to the bottles. I poured myself some water, not inclined to enter into conversation with others. Already compelled by nature as an introvert to remain quiet, and keep to myself, the protocol of the moment called for silence as well.