The Torn Shirt

I just put my white shirt in the washing machine, a reasonable place for something I wore daily for a week. The shirt has an eight-inch tear down its front. I tore it, in accordance with Jewish tradition, at the cemetery as we were getting ready to bury my father, and wore it for the week of mourning.

I’m not quite sure why I’m laundering it. Even if my sewing skills were greater than they are, I would not be planning to mend the shirt. I realize that simply discarding a piece of clothing, as I will do, is not an option that always existed. In days when each article of dress was acquired by diligently saving money, where three or four pieces of clothing were all anyone owned, the torn shirt of mourning was mended, pressed and put back into service. It served as a constant, visible reminder of how we piece lives back together after a loss, never quite the same as before but carrying on. 

When my mother died sixteen years ago (that number shocks me as she is so present in my heart) I mourned, deeply, for her. I still miss her wisdom, laughter and love. The youngest of her family, she was the first of her five siblings to go. I found great comfort and security in talking to her sister and brothers as the years passed.  This time around, my father was one of the last remaining members of his generation. Each year, there are fewer people to answer the questions raised by old photographs and memories, on both a personal and national level. They were people who would neither be ignorant nor confused or scornful about this week’s observation of Flag Day. With or without the visible reminder of a shirt, the reality of the loss of a generation is clearly evident. 


13 thoughts on “The Torn Shirt”

  1. Very sorry for your loss and thank you for the explanation of the symbolism of the torn clothes. I have always read in the Bible about “rending garments” in mourning but never really understood the meaning.
    Appreciate you and your husband very much.
    Blessings to you

  2. Father’s Day marks one year since my father-in-law’s passing, and especially appreciate this you have shared with us. Having granted my request he remained with us through after father’s day, slipping out two hours afterward, but no less a reminder as I wear away my years while looking forward to the world to come. I hadn’t realized how many of my best friends were from his generation until I began losing one after the other, Sarah, Mary Lou, Ethel. One of your teachings revealed to me what it may have been that drew me to them, they each had drawn me as close as I could come to Eden, giving me something to tide me over until the Olam Haba.
    This year, as I was planting my flower bed, I regretted that I had forgotten to make sure I picked up an American Flag as it happen to coincide with the Memorial Weekend. I was reminded because an saw the older gentleman walking by. I could’t say it was his daily morning walk because I really don’t notice him everyday but only especially when I such occasions that I have a flag displayed. I can see him from my window noticing it, accompanied with a spirit shared in that moment. I see now I had another chance on flag day, having I read this Wednesday, looked it up, and realized I missed it there to, and he did come by. Again, I was left with a feeling that I had somehow let him down. Especially knowing the everyday view he gets on his walks in this neighborhood where dusting cars for fingerprints would turn up significant findings, I am going to make sure I stock up on a year’s worth from here out.

  3. So sorry on your loss. I appreciate your words about the generations. My mother is still alive, but the last of her generation, and lonely in special ways as a result. Again, my condolences. I am glad you have God in your life to help you during these times.

  4. Sorry to hear about your Father passing away. It is very touching the part you wrote about the shirt , being sewn back together but never being the same again…it is an outward sign then , of what happens inside to our hearts. I hope you have many happy memories to use as patches. Karen.

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. I am glad you have such a close knit family to help you.

  6. We were created to understand our world, to create all kinds of good things (or bad) and to have relationships. We pass through our lives with glimpses from our pasts, the reality of our present and hope for our futures. I think that your parents raised you and your sibling to cherish their important roles in your lives and to respect their hard work. The gratitude and sorrow you have for your parents are evident; and there remains great hope for the next generation because of their influences upon you and others. With all of the great technology we have to help ease our labors in certain ways, it is still true that we have much work to do with attitude adjustments. Surely, there were many other generations with similar troubles (doesn’t the Bible speak of them)? The collective lie being told to children today is that humans (especially special groups of them: meat eaters, car drivers and gun toting folks) are responsible for the world’s ills. It is bogging down the minds of world’s children. I hope that we can all bring honor to our parents (and to our grandparents) by sharing the Truth with today’s youths. Then hopefully our lives will also be cherished and our loved ones will mourn their losses, too.

  7. I am so sorry for the loss of your Father. Please accept our most cordial condolences.
    Judging from my own lost Father, his generation was exceptional. They were scarred yet not marred by the Great Depression and a Great War. They knew hunger and deprivation like most of our generation never experienced, thanks to their labors and dedication to give their all for their families, and to construct a great America, unfettered by reams of prohibitive, asinine regulation. Let us all labor now to reconstruct America before it is too late.

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