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I Never Knew: A Rabbi’s Poem about Mourning

I never knew.

I never knew what this felt like.
I really never knew.

27 years as a rabbi, caring for others and yet,
I never knew.

After all those sermons about death and dying, about loss and living on,
I never knew.

Through the innumerable condolence calls, leading countless shiva minyanim, in fact
I never knew.

Over years of checking in on others,
In late night calls and texts
Just so they would know
They were not alone,
That we hadn’t forgotten,
I never knew.

Even after officiating at funeral after funeral after funeral,
Until the losses piled up so high that
They became part of the cycle of life
Yet each one representing a precious moment of memory, a unique life,
For some reason
I never knew.

He was old
And yes
He was ill
And yes
He was ready
And yet, still

While my loss is no greater, and
My pain is no sharper, while
My sadness is no deeper
Than those of countless others.

This sadness, this sorrow
Is like no other
Because although I have counseled many others
Through the valley of the shadow of death,

Today this death is mine

And I am starting to realize:
The emptiness of loss
The sadness of what isn’t anymore
The foreverness of it all.

You see
My dad is dead.
And what is that like?

I think
I wish
I never knew.


Explore more poetry about mourning Papa (my dad, Ken Kipnes).

Watch my videos about mourning

Enjoy more of my spoken word poetry


  1. nina gordon says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I wish none of us ever had to find out how it feels, including you. It’s devastating to lose a parent at any time or age, it’s such a fundamental relationship in our lives.
    Please know that my thoughts are with you. Sincerely, NIna

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