Oct 17. Shabbat. Lighting a memorial candle. It is 25 years ago today that I said good-bye to my dad. A quarter of a century has passed since that day when I go the call from the hospital. For some reason, this year the memory of that day, and the subsequent days that encopmassed the funeral and “shiva”, have stayed with me. Maybe it is that number? Twenty-five years. He has missed so much that he would have loved to witness. His grand-children married and great grand-children; whom he would have loved. A quarter of a century! And, maybe, just maybe, the reality of my mortality is ever present; especially, it seems, when I look in the mirror and see his face more than ever before. After all, twenty-five years have passed which means that I am twenty-five years older. And there is NO going back!
Memory, as you know, is funny. With the passage of time, we all deal with “selective memory”. Maybe that is a way we cope with loss. Maybe it is a way of the soul’s healing; we remember more of those good times. Of course, there is this nagging issue of time. Funny, but I still hear dad’s voice every once in a while. That has not changed. That voice is always present, as are the voices of so many of the people whom have died, but are still “alive” in our hearts and souls. We all have them, and they come to us, especially in moments of great joy or challenge. It is the power of those relationships that stay with us, like Morrie said to his student Mitch, in Alboms’s “Tuesdays With Morrie”, “death ends a life but not a relationship”. SO true.
Of course,thinking about dad has also made me think about that recognition of life that we call “yizkor”. A scholar once wrote that: ” There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” Maybe that is why we take “yizkor” so seriously. It is not only for the dead, it is also for us, the living. It is a not subtle reminder that as long as the name, and thus the life, is spoken of, we still live on. The fact that at some time, it may be that no one will speak our name, no one remember that we were here; that is a sobering thought.
So we light the candle and smile at the memories. This is a tradition that we must make sure we keep alive. Miss ya dad.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.