top of page

Inner Thanksgiving and Kaddish

What is Inner Thanksgiving? And no, Kaddish is not a recipe, or maybe it is?.

When my cousin comes for Thanksgiving, he will be taking a bus from Port Authority. He will get up at 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday to travel over an hour to catch a 5:00 a.m. Greyhound and ride it until 1:00pm to get to me, stay for 2.5 days, and reverse the trip on Saturday.

A few years ago, I did not know this cousin existed. He had some sense I did. Our grandmother is the mother of both of our fathers. His father was from her first marriage and before my grandfather would marry her, he apparently insisted this child be sent away. I am told this was customary in the 1930’s. I’m not entirely sure where he as sent. My aunt says he went to live with my grandmother’s sister, but another story says he was sent to a military boarding school. Our parent’s generation isn’t much for talking.

When he came to the door of his mother, our grandmother, early one day from the service or as a young graduate, her new family was inside. He came in, and she introduced him to her little children as her nephew/their cousin. Our grandmother passed young, in her early 50’s. At her funeral, this “cousin” was there, very upset, and here he revealed he was their half brother. He is 12 years older than my father, who is the oldest of the 5 children of her second marriage. I often wonder what the cost of all of this was to her, how her heart maybe felt some repair or conflict. I often think of women in these complex positions all through time and societies. Many of our families have women who have faced impossible circumstances by society, and even by the men nearest to them.

When I heard this story, I set out to find this Uncle. I couldn’t find him easily, but eventually the internet caught up with my attempts, and then it was too late. He had passed in 2000. I wanted to meet him, let him know he was important to us. Important enough that his life was shared to the next generation. Impossible choices, complicated dynamics. She passed young, but our grandfather did not. He was not an easy or gentle man. I have no idea what went on after she passed. All I know is as a young adult, it was important for my Aunt to make sure I knew he existed, that she passed the facts as she knew them, and her mother faced this wrenching complexity. What I did find was a couple of cousins!

He and I and other cousins have been in steady contact since. We are so easily family made whole. There really is something to genetics. We can see and feel something in each other that is very warm and familiar. Our root stories are not great, but the shoots are alive, real, and beautiful.

Someone recently asked me what this is like, what I feel like it means to us, me, him to find each other. And even what it feels like to have him come to our home for Thanksgiving - Why it’s worth it, why not leave well enough alone. It’s her story, their story, everyone’s lives have moved on, people say. It’s very layered. It’s a righting of a ship, a homecoming, an understanding of self, a tribe, roots growing a shoot, parched earth quenching, joy. We know we’re out there. We can’t un-know. It’s in the recesses and sometimes, we have to say, no more secrets.

It’s more than that. It’s an honoring. It’s a form of gratitude, of compassion in the deepest sense.

Kaddish is a Jewish prayer recited for the dead, typically for your loved ones, your ancestors, often in synagogue but could be anywhere. It’s an ancient Jewish prayer that does not at all focus on death, but on Thanksgiving for life, for living. It’s to remember to find the beauty in life, and the reminder to create your own by recognizing the awe and wonder of being in the universe.

When I think about getting together with this cousin, with any of my loved ones on a holiday or any day really, when I think about living into the kaddish, living prayerfully or spiritually, living into awe, I lift up the names of my ancestors who may have passed with secrets, with pain that I cannot know or understand or be responsible for, but can have compassion for that I do not understand, for the complexity of life. I think about the invitation we share in our love through our actions, how this is elevating their souls, elevating them in joy.

I think about a great canyon, my ancestors and loved ones on one side of the rim, with me on other, and I am lifting up their names in love across to them. If I listen really carefully across the canyon, these beautiful entities are saying it in love for me. I can hear it too. It asks a stillness of us to hear it. This stillness to deeply hear is sh’ma. I am in training to becoming an ancestor one day. Someone may say these prayers, carry a light for me. We each have a fire, a light, our neshamah is so bright. We don’t pray to our ancestors and loved ones, we connect to them. There is so much beauty.

Jewish tradition, which is a root and in common with many traditions, teaches there is a bright light to connect to like playing telephone. The bridge is god, universal consciousness, your heart spirit, whatever your term is for this. That’s the string - the light between us! WOW. Yes. Many of us understand this, and in our inner conversations, hopes, practices have a way to recognize this. The Kaddish reminds us, our inner fire, our loved ones, remind us: Choose life constantly, and this is living in love, in awe, in Thanksgiving.

ancestor light shining on family tree on canyon ledge kaddish Birdi Sinclair Begin Peace

Who of your loved ones are you thinking about? What is your Kaddish? What family secrets or stories can you gently live love into and breathe compassion for that which we do not understand?

Let’s share this sh’ma, over some tea. Fix a cup. Breathe it in with all your senses. Find a stillness. Deeply listen to your heart. By opening your senses with a practice of stillness, it helps your being remember and find this stillness more easily throughout other less optimum times. Be with your stillness and that deep heart listening. Carry that light of your spirit, stretch that string to each other, and elevate each other, our selves, in the deepest gratitude, connection, and joy. It is the message of the Kaddish, from our ancestors across the canyon.

Blessed Thanksgiving, my friends.

May all beings be in peace.

Ama la vita d’altro,

Birdi Sinclair Begin Peace

Begin Peace Birdi Sinclair

Rev. Dr. Birdi Sinclair

Interfaith Spiritual Care and Counseling

Wholeness Arts Specialist and Creator

“Begin Peace now. Each now is new.”


If you are interested in Spiritual Direction or Guidance in your own personal relationship with your spirituality, please feel free to contact me. Also, if you are interested in what it is to learn more about growing your own prayer, mediation, ritual or ceremony practices, this is something we can also discuss.


Peace Notes link and gift Begin Peace Birdi Sinclair

Please accept my invitation to sign up for Peace Notes, a periodic note from me to you with messages, maybe a poem, even a recipe, and some simple happenings. I have created a gift of a 22 minute Inside Forgiveness Meditation from my heart to yours in response to the needs in the world at this time. May it be of use to you.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page