Four times a year, Yizkor - a special Service of Remembrance - is added to our morning liturgy.
Yizkor is recited during Yom Kippur services, an appropriately melancholy addendum to what is already a solemn day. But it is also included on the final day of each of the three ancient pilgrimage festivals: Sukkot, Shavuot, and Pesach.
Today being the last day of Pesach (in the Diaspora, anyway), it was a day for remembering. And, as our rabbi pointed out, the solemnity of Yizkor is at least partially offset by the joy of the season. Passover is a springtime festival, after all, and one of its enduring themes is that of renewal. Even in the face of loss and grief, we know that flowers will eventually sprout from the earth once again and that the mornings will be filled with birdsong.
Alas, so many to remember.
My grandparents, all having been gone from this world for over two decades.
SWMBO’s sister. This summer it will have been 35 years since her untimely passing.
SWMBO’s dad, the inimitable Billie Bob. Nobody could barbecue a brisket like Billie Bob.
My two uncles, Gerry and Phil. Two of the sweetest people you could ever hope to meet.
There are more, of course. Family almost beyond reckoning. Great-aunts and -uncles, all dust and memories. Family. And friends.
Was it only three days ago that we stood on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina, watching the wedding of the son of Friends of Long Standing, a handsome young man whose father no longer walks the planet with us? Yet another example of renewal and rebirth in the face of loss.
It is a peculiarly human gift, this ability to remember. It can be the source of such pain when those we love are taken from our midst... and yet who would choose a life without the capacity to feel that pain?
“As long as we live, they too shall live... as we remember them.”