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Standing for Kaddish That First Time

They mentioned Dad’s name
At temple tonight
I stood up and stared ahead straight
My heart palpitated
My shoulders sagged just a bit
Under this burden, this new sacred weight

Out of the corner of my eye,
I stole a glimpse here and there
To discover just how I should act
This age-old ritual felt new,
As unfamiliar feelings did too
I didn’t want to over- or under-react

I stood up for Kaddish,
And I stood in his memory
Death and life at that moment juxtaposed
And I felt it transform
My essence, my life
Like I just then became one of those

You know, those people who stand,
Because their loved ones are dead
For a year before their lives are renewed
Well I’m one of them now,
‘cause my daddy is gone
I’m the stander, the mourner, I’m not you

The leader in me,
Up there on the stage
Often presents with a backbone of steel
But when it’s me who must stand,
Like a regular man
It’s different, it’s raw and it’s real

When they mentioned Dad’s name
At temple tonight
Standing tall, I stared at the book,
With love I recited
The prayer on the page
But inside like an earthquake I shook

The introvert me,
All alone with my loss,
Might stand tall in the midst of that room
But I stumbled through words
Words I’ve never before heard
And I wished I were back in the womb

I guess no one enjoys
The moment they must
Be a mourner, making sure Kaddish is said
But that’s what I’ll do
For the memory of you…
Gosh Dad, I wish you weren’t dead


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

Watch my videos about mourning

Enjoy more of my spoken word poetry

One comment

  1. Monica Lemelman says:

    Dear Paul, I went last Friday to morning minyan for my dear mother’s yahrzeit. I recited the Az Yashir with tears in my eyes, as I remembered how we worked together for me to learn the first ten sentences my heart, an assignment in 7th grade. Look Mom, I still remember the words! I stood for the Kaddish with tears in my eyes, remembering what a sweet neshamah she had. After services, I went to the office and made a donation to the synagogue, and ordered a lulav and etrog for my Hadassah sukkah party, in her honor and memory. I know she would approve, happy to add to and be a part of this Hadassah celebration. Then I bought a seven layer cake, one of her favorites, for dessert. She will always be with me, as your father will be with you.
    I send you healing thoughts.

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