Yizkor – to remember. We take time during the year to remember those who died, who are now just memories in this world. We remember them in the midst of our prayer and repentance, because all of it is a gift from them. This year, I will be seeing two faces when I say Yizkor, my father and someone who was as close as a parent, my step mother in law.
I will hear daddy’s voice every time I say any of the words in Hebrew or listen to the men singing. I will remember that he learned a new culture and a new language in his 30s, and did it well enough to write poetry in English, to appreciate a good pun or tell a horrible dad joke. I will remember him telling me that yes, some of us have difficult circumstances to overcome. We can either overcome them, or whine that the world owes us something. The funny thing is that we might convince the world to give us what we want but we are unlikely to get true support, friendship or admiration that way. If we work harder and make it, we might.
When I make plans for the future, promising to have a better year, I’ll see Peg, warmly listening to our plans for the kids, hear her advising us to not try to accomplish the impossible, but to set realistic reasonable goals and then do them. I’ll hear her talk about the importance of planning with care, of taking time for plans and ideas, of making the plans work through continuous effort. I’ll also hear her advising us to have some good times in the present too – future planning is good and necessary – but so are board games.
When I hear the shofar, I will think of my father reminding me that tradition matters, that sometimes we do things we don’t like or don’t understand just because they’re traditional – and that is an excellent thing. I will remember watching Fiddler on the Roof with him, and thinking how he exemplifies the “tradition” song in some undefinable way – because even though he was not that religious, even though he left one country for another, losing all childhood traditions and continuity, even though – it is from him that I know about tradition, how much it can give me and how important it is.
When I pick out my most beautiful Rosh HaShanah outfit, I picture Peg helping me on with my wedding dress, fixing my daughters’ hair and making everything look right. Our styles didn’t always match and we both have issues when it comes to making healthy food choices and maintaining the appearance we want. Nevertheless, she cared about the way things looked and made beautiful clothes that made people look better, and put out decorations, and took the time to focus on appearance. She brought beauty into the world.
When I talk to people this holiday season, I will remember laughter, because dad and Peg sure both could laugh. They loved good jokes, but also just laughed for joy some of the time. I will remember singing – they both sang, different things and with different voices, but they sang. I will remember hugs and warmth and easy touch. They had no trouble sharing physical connection and intimacy. They were not confused about parent child boundaries, and kept those firm and appropriate, but within them, Peg and daddy were amazing at giving simple touches of comfort and reassurance.
When I pray, I will remember clear, deep and abiding faith – not always in the same thing, or in the same way, but faith. I never had problems knowing where they stood when it came to love, or faith, because really, sometimes those two words totally overlap. I will remember not words, not pictures, not anything outward, but feelings – the feeling of being loved and cherished and the feeling that says Love is, God is and all is well in the world. That feeling – that support – most of all, I will remember that.
It’s almost time for the Yizkor prayer. I have people I love whom I’ve lost. I have something to Remember.