Kaddish

Today on my walk through campus on the way to my class, I passed a guy sitting on a bench reading Allen Ginsburg’s Kaddish.

First, I was amazed that: 1) he wasn’t sitting on that bench smoking a cigarette; and 2) that his head wasn’t buried in some kind of electronic device; and 3) that he wasn’t talking on a cell phone.

He was a college kid, sitting on a bench in front of the English building, reading a book. And it was a very odd siting.

Today was another incredibly beautiful day here. The daffodils are up now, and the red, red robins are bob, bob, bobbin’ along.

Kaddish definitely did not fit this day. It’s an intense book. Dark. A good January book.

Once, many years ago, I heard a guy on the radio say this: “There is one day in the calendar that you will not live through.”

His words chilled me. I had never thought of it (death) that way, i.e. as a date on a calendar that I would not see the completion of.

After I heard him say that, I remember walking outside. It was a day in early spring, much like today: the may apples were just pushing up, and the ground smelled fudgey. There were tender leaf shoots budding all over the forsythia, and in that moment I  remember thinking to myself: Please god, don’t let me die in the spring. Please don’t let that day I don’t live through be the day the lilacs bloom. I don’t want to die in the spring.

When I saw that kid reading Kaddish, I thought of that day, and also of my father-in-law: a kind man, an orthodox jew, sitter of too many shivas, and a part of way too many minyons.

I remembered hearing him recite Kaddish in Hebrew, by heart, as he had learned it as a young man in Hebrew school.  I remembered how hard it was to gather a minyon to say Kaddish for him because he had out-lived most of his peers.

And now, here I was, once again, on a beautiful day in spring, thinking of death, and praying again: Please don’t let that day in the calendar I don’t live through be a day in spring.