June 20, 2011

Remembering Dad z"l

Last night and today marked the third yahrzeit, or anniversary, of my father's death. Last night my mother, my sister and I all lit yahrzeit candles, which burn for a little more than 24 hours and remind us of Dad whenever we walk past the candle. Today I woke up very early in order to attend morning minyan. Since today is a Monday, we read from the Torah, and as the daughter of a kohen and someone observing a yahrzeit, I received an aliyah to the Torah. I also held the Torah while I sang El Maleh Rahamim, God full of compassion, traditionally sung at funerals and on occasions when we remember our dead loved ones.

I took that moment to talk a little but about my dad. Since I had eaten the first real tomato of the summer season just this past weekend, I reminisced about how proud my dad was of his home-grown tomatoes, which he planted where the dryer vented hot, moist air outdoors, kind of like a mini-greenhouse. For a city boy who was born and bred in the Bronx, he sure took to suburban life in Cincinnati and loved his garden. (I chose not to mention how he often made us bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches on Sundays after we came home from religious school, and never saw the irony in eating bacon after learning about Judaism.)

My dad would have been proud of Rik and I preparing orange juice, bagels, cream cheese and lox, and a little chocolate for everyone to nosh on after services ended. Dad loved to feed people, the more the better. I remember one year when my Young Judaea group put on an Israeli cafe, complete with authentic food. Dad had never been to Israel, never eaten falafel, but he could tell we were struggling to get it right and stepped up to the range to demonstrate the finer points of deep-fat frying to a bunch of teenagers. As I recall, everything was delicious.

But even surrounded by Rik, friends and my synagogue community, I felt strongly that I wanted to be with my mother and sister today. It's been more than two years since Rik and I were back for a visit, although my mother has come here regularly. My sister and I haven't seen each other since the unveiling of my dad's gravestone, and that's a long time. We talk on the phone and catch up via Facebook, but it's not the same as a family visit. I am looking forward to when we all get together later this summer.

From the OU:

O God, full of mercy, Who dwells on high,
grant proper rest on the wings of the Divine Presence -

in the lofty levels of the holy and the pure ones,
who shine like the glow of the firmament -

for the soul of (...)
who has gone on to his world,

because, without making a vow,
I will contribute to charity in remembrance of his soul.

May his resting place be in the Garden of Eden -

therefore may the Master of Mercy
shelter him in the shelter of His wings for Eternity,
and may He bind his soul in the Bond of Life.

Hashem is his heritage,
and may he repose in peace on his resting place.

Now let us respond: Amen.

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