Re-Remembering Our Loved Ones

candleOver Shimini Atzeret, I was moved by the sermon of a rabbi who had lost his twin babies at 20 weeks of gestation, just before the Sabbath. He quoted from Kohelet (Ecclesiastes):

… better off than he, is the stillborn child, for he [the stillborn child] comes in vain and departs in darkness. Though it never saw the sun, nor knew of it; its contentment is greater than his.

Twenty-three years ago, I suffered the loss of a baby, but there is no traditional Jewish ritual for miscarriages or stillborn babies. No naming ceremony, no shiva. I did not even seek out a support group. Finally, I have now been given a positive perspective on my loss. My new friend had copious tears down her face.

Then, the rabbi segued into talking about other losses: the death of people we have lived with. He said that the tendency is for us to have a fixed static memory of the departed person, because time has stopped for that person. However, in order to give a future to our relationship, we need to bring that person into our present and incorporate new interactions. We need to re-member them into our lives.

My dad died in June, and Mom has placed a large framed photograph of him in the living room. She talks to him daily and when my siblings and I visit, we bow and greet Dad. Upon our departure, we announce our farewell. At the oddest moments, I think of Dad and how he would have reacted. I take comfort in that and it gives me the impetus to talk about him with my daughters. He remains alive in our thoughts, and thus he is still relevant. May the rabbi and his wife take comfort in imaging their twin daughters as they grow throughout childhood.

Originally published in A Cultural Mix.