Morning Routine, Mourning Routine

Every morning I brush my teeth, brew coffee, turn on the computer, check my email and click on the Breast Cancer site to make a free donation to make mammograms available for those who cannot afford them. It is a tiny gesture in solidarity with the women I know (and all the ones I don’t) who have battled this disease. Usually, I do this more-or-less thoughtlessly.

But this past week, my morning ritual became an act of mourning. Last Sunday night, I paid a condolence call to the family of a 57-year-old woman who succumbed to breast cancer.

As my husband and I drove to the house, I knew it was going to be a very sad shiva service (shiva, which means seven, refers to the week of mourning observed by Jews – a time of reflection, sadness, remembrance, and communal support.)

Joyce was a long-time member of my synagogue, and while I didn’t know her very well, we had many mutual friends who were deeply saddened by her loss. Even closer to home, my daughter, Emilia, was friends with Joyce’s two girls growing up, and she had called me to talk about her memories of Joyce and of being in her home.

It was an untimely death, which inevitably holds up a fairly frightening mirror to a 58-year old like me. But I was touched and even gladdened as I looked around the very full room and saw so many young faces – friends and relatives there to comfort Joyce’s daughters, who are both in their 20s. Had Emilia been in town, she would have been there, too.

I’ve been to many shiva gatherings over the years, nearly all for older if not elderly parents – including my father. Those who gathered for condolence, in solidarity and community, were all of my generation or older.

And now our kids are adults: beautiful, compassionate, and wise enough to know how important it is to show up for one another. And that is what makes human life possible.

The season is changing. Sad as I am for Joyce’s death and her family’s grief, I honor the gifts she gave and left behind. Including this lesson to me.

Here is the website:

You know what to do.


  1. Laura Cococcia on June 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Anita – Thanks for posting such a thoughtful comment, as well as the site where we can donate. It’s affected so many people in my life – directly and indirectly.

  2. Bridechka on July 7, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.

  3. Nan Crawford on August 14, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Dear Anita,

    I just read your post: Morning Routine, Mourning Routine.

    I am so touched by your words and saddened by your loss. I too have lost family and friends to Breast Cancer.

    I wanted to share with you a blessing I wrote a few years ago.

    I wrote it for a friend and mentor who taught me a
    tremendous amount about facing death with acceptance, grace, courage and curiosity. As she was dying, friends in her circle were invited to send love letters that would honor her life and bless her crossing over. I asked my Self, “what gift can I give Mary at this time?” and this
    blessing came.

    I share it with you now, and hold you and your circle in my heart.

    Nan Crawford


    a blessing for crossing over…
    a blessing for our beloved dead…

    may you fly
    may you soar
    may the mystery embrace you
    crossing through this mythic door

    may you fly
    may you soar
    may you glide across the waters
    to a welcome distant shore

    may you fly
    may you soar
    may you gather round with elders
    who have long since gone before

    may you fly
    may you soar
    may you visit us often
    as wisdom’s soft whisper and laughter’s loud roar

    may you fly


  4. Anita Diamant on August 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Thank you, Nan. I hope others who read this might be inspired by your words. I wonder if someone out there will be inspired to set it to music?

  5. Nan Crawford on September 2, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Hi Anita,

    I’ve been traveling and camping and not online for awhile…. Thanks for your note. And your recent post on Ted Kennedy, which echoed many of my feelings, and made me laugh: “a verb, Senator, a verb.”

    And your other posts on sea moss custard and cinema made me think of John Sayles’ retelling of the Selkie myth several years ago in his film: The Secret of Roan Inish. Have you seen it?

    As for the blessing I wrote, I have actually set it to music myself, though I haven’t recorded it. Mostly I have sung it at wakes and memorial gatherings and to two of my uncles as they were each preparing to cross over last autumn. It would be good to record it. I have a friend who is the Education Director of the Zen Hospice here in San Francisco, so we might collaborate on it. I’ve added that to my list of creative projects.

    At the moment I’m working on a coming of age tale for young girls, entitled “The Moon Will Call You Sister” about menarche, our innate creativity and the cyclical nature of life. I would love to seek your advice on it, if you would be open to sharing some of your wisdom.

    with gratitude

  6. Anita Diamant on September 2, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks, Nan. I did see Secret of Roan Innish and liked it very much.

    Good luck on your book. Alas, I have no wisdom at all regarding YA (young adult) or children’s books. These constitute an entirely “other” realm I know nothing about.

  7. Nan Crawford on October 23, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Hi Anita,

    Thanks for note of early September. I have been in a swirl of travel and work these last several weeks.

    I appreciate you distinction and understand that YA and children’s books are a beast all their own. And my interest in speaking with you is less about how to get my book published, and more to learn about your experience with The Red Tent, and organizations that you may have connected with, who were inspired by your story.

    I am in the midst of connecting with a number of non-profit organizations that support women and girls, [V-Day, Planned Parenthood, Guttmacher Institute, Girls Inc.] as well as in conversations with Dr. Christiane Northrup [who wrote a delightful letter of support for my “moon/sister” book] and Dr. Andrew Weil [who is interested in our goals of changing health education for young girls, to shift from the predominant “shameful curse” perspective, to the more empowering lens: “you have the power to create life”].

    For V-Day’s 10th anniversary event in New Orleans I co-created the performances and story circles inside an exquisite Red Tent created by Paulette Cole of ABC Home. I don’t know if you’ve seen images of her creations but they are majestic and magical.

    I live in San Francisco, and saw that you will be at the JCC on 11/1, so I’m planning to come to that event.

    I well imagine your plate will be full on the 1st, but I hope to have the chance to say hello in person, and perhaps plant some seeds for a future conversation if you’d be open to that….

    Safe travels westward,

  8. Anita Diamant on October 24, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Hi Nan:
    Hope to see you in SF. It sounds to me like you are doing exactly the right things in making connections with organizations and prominent people who are in tune with your work. Similarly, I connected with my “base,” who I know from my other non-fiction books, which consisted largely of Jewish women and clergy. Start with those who know and appreciate you.

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