Remembering My Father and the Meaningfulness of How Many Years Ago He Passed

RememberingDadRingIt is the tradition of our Jewish faith to remember the anniversary of the death of our loved ones by lighting a Yahrzeit memorial candle.* September 1 is the 30th Anniversary of my Father’s death. I lit a candle in his memory. He always used the phrase, “this is unbelievable.” It is unbelievable that he died thirty years ago.

Our youngest was eleven years old and in sleep away camp when her grandfather went into the hospital. He had been very ill and we made a decision to interrupt her camp experience and bring her home to say goodbye. We had a feeling he was going to die. PopPop’s grandfather died when he was thirteen and he never forgave his parents who would not let him see his grandfather before he died. His grandfather had been very ill and his parents wanted to shield him. Our daughter was glad she had a chance to say goodbye. My Father died after she returned to camp. We knew we had done the right thing.

One never knows what is right or wrong in such a circumstance. We learn from our own experiences and try to do the best we can in life and in death. Saying goodbye and having the opportunity to say goodbye, we learned, is significant for every member of the family. Yes, we get emotional at the end and that is okay. I said goodbye to my Father thirty years ago and today, the thirtieth anniversary of his death, it feels like yesterday.

Remembering the anniversary of his death is as emotional as the day of his death because the raw emotion of grief is a reminder of the fragility of life and how those we love can be taken from us and will be taken from us. Every one of us is facing death in our journey of life. The remembrance of the cycle is painful when we have the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

However, the reminder of fragility of life is not a bad thing. It is good. It is good to remember to cherish life and to live life to its fullest. It is good to remember to live life as if today is one’s last day on earth. It is good to cherish loved ones and spend time and effort to be with those one loves.

It is good to remember the love we felt and the memories of the good times we shared with those we love. The love of parent and child is so deep. My Father suffered so much mental and physical pain in his life, and died too early from the consequences of torture during his time as a prisoner of the Nazis in the Holocaust. It was almost as if I was his parent at times, wanting to shield him from any further pain in his life.

His early passing itself was so painful as he missed the birth of grandchildren and his precious grandchildren growing up. He missed the celebrations, the graduations, the birth of great grandchildren.

September 1 is also the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II, the invasion of Poland by the Nazis and the beginning of my Father’s nightmare in Poland. It seems he wanted us to also remember to “Never Forget” by dying on September 1.

We all suffer the pain of loss. The anniversary of the day of my Father’s death is a day I remember the joyful times we shared too. I remember that he loved and cherished me, and what he repeated in life, that the Nazis did not win in destroying us.

I never had the unconditional love and joy of grandparents, who were murdered in the Holocaust. My children remember joyful times with their grandfather. He loved them and they knew the deep and unconditional love of a grandfather.

For all the remaining days of my life, I will cherish my grandchildren, and give them unconditional love and as much joy as I can so that the memories may carry forward from generation to generation.

That remembrance of love and joy and continuation of generational love and joy helps so much in the hard times of life. It helps me face my own hardships, my own days, and my own mortality.

It is the tradition of our Jewish faith to remember the anniversary of the death of our loved ones by lighting a candle. I hope, on the anniversary of my death, my children and grandchildren will remember how much I loved them and remember the joyful times we shared. I hope one day my children and grandchildren will think it is unbelievable that I died thirty years ago.  The thought of this can bring



* According to, “[t]he word ‘Yahrzeit’ is Yiddish and is translated to mean “time of year.” In Judaism, there is a focus on carrying on the memory of those before us from generation to generation. Based on Jewish law, the Yahrzeit is the day one year following the death of a loved one as calculated in accordance with the Hebrew calendar. This remembrance is performed annually by reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish and burning a Yahrzeit candle for 24 hours. Traditionally, the observance begins on the anniversary of the Hebrew date of death and the candle is lit at sunset. When a death occurs after sunset, the following day is used to observe the Yahrzeit.”

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