To Hold On – To Remember: Yizkor

Yahrzeit Memorial Candle in memory of my father-2, by Zeev Barkan via Flickr.com under Creative Commons 2.0 License
Yahrzeit Memorial Candle in memory of my father-2, by Zeev Barkan via Flickr.com under Creative Commons 2.0 License

Our memory is one of the most powerful tools that we possess as human beings. It can make us feel good and can also make us feel so sad. Our memory helps us to know who we are and to identify who others are as well.

The importance of our ability to remember is given witness by our fear of losing our memories. How many people have said to me over the years that their greatest fear in life is not to end their lives suffering from cancer or some other debilitating disease, but rather losing their memory through the ravages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

I have often thought that I would like to live to be 100 or more but only if I still had my mind, which is a code phrase for still having my memory. I can remember watching the Today show and seeing Willard Scott, may he rest in peace, honoring, with a picture and name, a man or woman celebrating his or her 100th birthday sponsored by Smucker’s. My hope, as I watched this segment of the show, was to someday see my picture on the screen, but as important as that was, it was to know it was my picture. In other words, to remember it was me!

As many of us who are getting older, I am referring to those who are AARP members, know that one of the most frustrating aspects of the aging process is the fear, the real fear, of forgetting things, place, names, titles of movies and actors.

Why do we seniors get so upset when we can’t remember someone’s name, the name of a restaurant we just ate in, maybe even that same day, or the title of a Netflix movie or book we wanted to recommend? Does it really matter?

It sure does because we wonder is it just the beginning of a mental decline or just an unwanted result of getting older? But even more than this, to remember relates to our very identity because we fear that if we can’t remember a tv show is it only one small step to not recognizing ourselves on the Smucker’s spot!

May we never stop remembering who we were and who we are today.

There is, however, another part of all of this and even more important. The important Yom Kippur service called Yizkor is not about remembering who we are, you and I, it is about remembering our loves ones and friends and who they were, are and will always be to us.

When we can no longer remember them, they then are no more!

This is why he hold on so tightly and cherish photographs, videos, jewelry, and other personal items. Therefore, some of us cannot erase our loved one’s telephone message or their face which we use as the screen saver or home screen wallpaper on our phone.

These things, these precious things, are called: Memorabilia. because they help to keep the memories of our loved ones alive for us.

Let us be sure to take the time to really use our memory to remember them. In other words, do not just think or say a loved one’s name. Close your eyes and try to visualize them. Some of our loved ones wore a distinctive cologne or perfume, breathe in, and try to recapture that smell.

Let us pray that even with the passage of the years we never lose these internal memories of sight, smell, and maybe even touch with which we are blessed.

As with the physical memorabilia, our loved ones live on through the internal memorabilia as well.

Let each of us to intentionally make the effort to give our gift of memories to our loved ones by which we shall be remember by them.

In my doctoral project group, there was a man who when it was his turn to share the Jewish memories of his life went on in on in detail about them. After he finished, I asked him if he had ever shared these memories with his son. He said no. At the concluding ceremony of the project, this man, confined to a wheelchair, gave an audio tape of this memories to his son who was next to him on knee. As dad did this, he placed his hand on his son’s head and blessed him.

Make a conscious effort to tell the stories of your life to your family, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, if you have. If you are so inclined, keep a journal of the special moments in your life in the past and be sure to keep on adding the new ones. Leave your thoughts and feelings as your personal commentary to your life and what it means.

Be sure to tell your family what your desires are at the time of death regarding a burial and a funeral service. Don’t leave them guessing at the time which many I have known did.

And finally, with the wonders of the ability to take pictures and videos, be sure to make your own.

Just as you cherish the memories you have of your loved ones and friends who have passed away by holding on to both the internal and external memorabilia, why not be sure that your loved ones have the same of your life… to hold and to cherish forever!

Let us remember the times and years gone by in our own lives and those in the lives of our family and friends we are to remember and then follow…. Follow the memories and allow them to help us make all the dreams for our future come true for our loved ones and friends will always live on through them and through us.

And make sure you leave the kind legacy that will be your special eternal gift to the most precious people in your life.

To do this is in your hands.

About Rabbi Dr. Steven Moss 18 Articles
Rabbi Dr. Steven A Moss is Rabbi Emeritus of B’nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, NY, a synagogue he has served since 1972. He recently retired to Boynton Beach, FL. He has also authored, God Is With Me; I Have No Fear, and A Poetical Journey Through Sefirat HaOmer.

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