If there is anything in my life that seems fleeting and untraceable it’s time and memories. In many ways i try to track time with meaningful memories and by constructing a timeline of what happened, when and with whom. Scrapbooks, pictures, letters and modern internet tracking tools of events and personal achievements are how we attempt to make the most of the time that will never be returned to us again.
And yet, here we are, coming up to the tenth anniversary of my Uncle David’s Yahrtzeit (commemoration date of a person’s passing) and my memory fails me.
I know that at the time of his murder there is nothing I would have wanted more than to be far far away from everything going on and to forget.
I had no desire to see any of the tragic events surrounding his death and shivah (Jewish week of mourning) and the trial of his murderer to follow. To see my aunt walking away from his grave being supported on either side unable to make the steps on her own. I didn’t want these memories to be there etched in my mind. I wanted to be free of all of the pain his death brought to our family. We tried to find comfort in little facts about how his righteousness was comparable to Moses whose death and birth were on the same Jewish date, just like my Uncle or how his death came at just the time when the entire nation was mourning another great loss, the loss of our temple.
Two years ago I wrote a post on my own personal blog about my feelings as we approached his 8th death anniversary. At that time I still continued to write about the events of his death and the feelings I had surrounding the sudden and tragic murder of such a great man and important figure in my life.
This year, I was trying to focus my energy on remembering the great memories we had of him during his life. I drew a blank and was frustrated with myself for being such a dead-beat niece. Then last week, suddenly, out of no where, I received an email from a Jewish convert who continues to be inspired by my Uncle’s memory and his greatness to this day.
“I would like to say to you that I have carried the example of your uncle with me since his death – I have, until recent months, woken at 5.30 in the morning in his memory, having read that he woke early in the morning. I am a convert to Judaism – since 1984. Not a particularly good Jew but totally loving towards all Jews. His death affected me profoundly and his name is known to my friends in the UK where I now reside. His life, unknown to me, affected me so much that I slept and woke with his name in my heart. Thank you for reminding me of him and I once again hope to rise early in the morning with love in my heart.”
Damn it! If she can remember him daily then why can’t I?? After reading her comment, I kept lying awake in bed at night thinking about the memories I had hoped I would never forget. I have so many of them owing to the fact that I lived in my Aunt and Uncle’s house during my first year of college before I got married.
I remember when I first arrived in Toronto, being fresh off the boat in at the age of 19 and being bullied into buying a health club membership to a club I would never go to. Uncle David saw my stress and told me not to worry, that he would look after it. He made a few jokes about what he would do to them if they didn’t cancel my membership, just to ease the mood a bit. Some of his kids wanted to come with to see him in action so we all piled into his Suburban and away we went to watch an expert in action. His kind nature and straight forward attitude was no match for the conniving sales rep and they quickly canceled my membership and refunded my money.
Uncle David’s laugh was so contagious that none of us could sit at a table with him while he was laughing without giggling along with him. The last Passover before his death, he insisted that I come with my kids and husband to stay by them even though it meant all of us squishing for the week just so that we could be together. Uncle David never told me that he was too busy to speak, even during tax season, and I knew that when it came to a listening ear, he was never too tired for me or for anyone else.
Although the specific memories of a person may not always be documented on a Facebook timeline let alone in our terrible memories (speaking for myself here) the general feelings we have towards a person always remain alive.
Ten years pass quickly but love and kindness remain in our hearts and minds forever.