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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Yahrzeit

My Dad passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease on February 25, 1988. I’ve written here before about how much my Dad absolutely loved Christmas. That first Christmas in 1988 without Dad was almost impossible for me. It had been ten months since his death, but my grief welled up and completely overwhelmed me. I was newly divorced, living alone in a city apartment that felt very far away from those magical Christmases in my childhood home. My best friend Chuck, who several years later would become my beloved husband, tried to ease my distress. He explained what a yahrzeit was - the anniversary of the day that a loved one has died. He also explained the tradition of lighting a yahrzeit candle at dusk on the evening before the anniversary, and how the candle would burn for 24 hours. Which is how a grieving Catholic daughter, was led out of her pain by her Jewish best friend, who helped her light the little yahrzeit candle for her father on Christmas Eve. That evening, instead of singing Christmas carols, I said the words “Zichrono Liveracha - His memory is a blessing” for the very first time. Then Chuck and I sat and watched the flame flicker, while somewhere deep inside, I began to heal.

Tomorrow is my father’s yahrzeit. Tonight Chuck and I lit another little candle for Dad, who was a devout Roman Catholic. But lighting the yahrzeit candle in his honor, is one of the most comforting ways I know to observe the 25th of February every year. “Zichrono liveracha” His memory is a blessing. Our memories of Dad are a blessing to all of us 19 years past his passing.

I wrote the following poem a few years ago. It is not specifically about my Dad, but about all of our loved ones who have passed.

Your Yahrzeit

We take the grief
the loss
the sorrow
We hold it in our hearts
every day
for one year

On your yahrzeit,
the anniversary
of the day your body died,
we pour all the pain
into the yahrzeit candle

The match blazes
the wick flashes and flares
then burns steadily
for twenty-four hours
A constant reminder of you
A visible symbol
of the life of your soul

The grief is for that day
The joy is for that day as well
Remembering
a lifetime of moments
Rejoicing
in what we shared
Wondering
what might have been
Learning
from that wondering

As the flame burns low
there is a twinge
a small reliving of the loss
as when your body died
In that same moment
a whisper of relief
The elders were wise
to guide us to honor you
and grieve your passing
only one day a year

The rest of the year
we honor you
by living our lives
as fully as possible
Just as you would ask us to
if you were still here


- LMR/Pink Granite

2 comments:

Gail said...

Absolutely lovely

barbie2be said...

what a beautiful tribute to your father, Lee.