Skip to main content

A Meditation on Mourning and Loss

What follows is the meditation I shared at the start of our congregation's Yizkor Memorial Service.

It is often the smallest of things that remind us of those we love. It is often the seemingly insignificant that grab you and create those pangs of loss. More often than not they also provide the spark for the largest of memories.

A little over a year ago my Uncle Bob died. He was my father’s older brother. His death followed a lengthy decline. In the scheme of tragedies that I witness his death could not, and should not, be called an injustice. He lived a long life filled with accomplishment and surrounded by family.

Like many, and most especially those in my family, he had some idiosyncratic habits. Among them was a love of large, leafy hostas. And so I think of my uncle every spring when I see those bluish, green leaves begin to unfurl.

He also only drank tea, never coffee—and never those fruity flavors but what he deemed the more authentic Earl Grey or English Breakfast. The water had to be brought to a boil, not in a microwave, but in a kettle, on the stove. And then after allowing the tea to steep for the required minimum of five minutes, he would take the tea bag out of the cup and wind the string tightly over the bag and around the spoon in order to squeeze every bit of tea out of the bag. And then he would say, “Steven, I need a plate to put my spoon and tea bag on. To this day, I never brew tea in the microwave.

You would never imagine that spying a stranger in a Starbucks taking the tea bag out of his tea and then wrapping a spoon around the bag to likewise squeeze out every ounce of tea could bring one to tears over a year later, but such is the journey of mourning and loss. It is the smallest of things that serve as reminders and that awaken those feelings of longing. You ache for those things that you once might have even found annoying and frustrating. It is those small things that sometimes only you knew but that made the person you loved who they were.

Remembrances are everywhere. Lessons are easily grasped. They can even be seen in a stranger’s cup of tea. Sparks of lives remain with us always.

We hold on to the smallest of things, and the largest of memories.