Debra Ruder Communications

Writing that matters

Pausing to remember

Something unexpected and profound happened while I was attending a journalism conference in Boston the other day.

During a break between sessions about health care writing, someone grabbed me and asked, “Are you Jewish? We need people to say Kaddish.” I followed her into the hallway and found a handful of people standing quietly in a circle. One of them, Joanne, began to read aloud from a paper in her hand. It was a copy of the Mourner’s Kaddish, an ancient prayer traditionally recited for weeks or months after the death of a close relative. Joanne, a health writer and editor from Washington, D.C., lost her father three months ago.

I had never met Joanne and didn’t know most of the people in the circle (at least 10 adults are required to say Kaddish), but I felt profoundly connected to them through this sacred Jewish ritual—even if we don’t all practice it.

Reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish in the hallway that day reminded me about pausing. That no matter how hectic and stressful our daily lives feel, it’s important to stop and remember someone who has died. It doesn’t have to involve prayer. You can light a candle. Read a poem. Look through photos. Take a walk. Share a story about him or her. Or simply close your eyes and imagine.

The action doesn’t matter; what matters is the act of pausing, honoring, and acknowledging that while life goes on without a loved one, it is never the same.