Overwhelmed with sorrow at the passing of my grandmother, I flew across the country, from my home in California to join my family in Toronto at her funeral. Devastated at the loss of a woman who had been a mainstay in my life for as long as I could remember I was unable to believe that I would no longer bask in her love, benefit from her wisdom or experience her nurturing. I felt a jarring panic as her coffin was lowered slowly into the ground next to my grandfather's grave. After her burial, I was unprepared to resume my normal everyday routine and resolved to stay and mourn my grandmother along with my father and his siblings as they observed shiva--the seven day ritual mourning period—in her home. Family had been my backbone as a child, it was again now.

The response of the community to our bereavement was tremendous. In addition to those who made up the six minyanim (prayer quorums) required three times a day for my father and his five brothers, people came in droves morning, noon and night, and their recollections about my grandmother's life of contribution brought us solace.

But the steady stream of people and the raw feelings also brought exhaustion and fatigue. Concerned for my father's wellbeing and aware of the tradition that others are obligated to tend to mourners as they do not make requests or attend to their own needs, I made a point of being conscientious in ensuring that he was taken care of.

Noticing that he did not seem interested when meals were served, I attempted to come up with options of food that would tempt him to eat and retain his strength. Surprisingly, he was open to any and all of my suggestions and greeted my offers for a sweater or a more comfortable stool amenably as well. I was surprised to see that when other family members made similar proposals, he refused.

I am sitting Shiva, completely focused on my beloved mother. There is nothing at all that I want or need. But regardless, I worry for you.

I persisted in attending to my father, contemplating creative ways to make him comfortable. Silently patting myself on the back for my ingenious reasoning, I watched as he resisted anything that even my sisters or mother sought to coax him with. Since it seemed that only I was successful in foreseeing his wants, my eyes constantly strayed across the length of my grandmother's crowded living room to where my father sat.

After a few days of careful observation, it was becoming obvious that my father was only receptive to my offers. Unable to fathom the reason for this, I questioned him, "Daddy, I know this is very strange but I have noticed that you only want the things that I offer. Whenever anyone else suggests something, you claim that you have no appetite or do not require it."

My father turned to me and I studied his face. I saw that recent events had added new creases. His red-rimmed, weary eyes were filled with tender compassion and sagely wisdom. His quietly resonant voice was hoarse, his throat raw with emotion as he gently touched my cheek with his sturdy hand and said, "Batya, I am sitting Shiva, completely focused on my beloved mother. There is nothing at all that I want or need right now. But regardless, I worry for you.

"You live so far away and your visits are few and far between and naturally you are preoccupied with your children. You have so little opportunity to perform and thereby benefit from the fifth commandment to honor your parents. Popular culture fights against the practice of honoring parents, but its importance is unequalled. Those who fulfil it profit both in this world and the world to come, meriting a good life both in quantity and quality.

"So although I had no desire for what you were offering, I love you and therefore I made sure to accept each and every time, day after day so that you could do this mitzvah over and over again."