As a young girl, I recall how lucky I felt every time I had to leave the synagogue sanctuary while those who had lost parents remained to say the memorial prayer, “Yizkor.” There was always a sad heaviness that enveloped the room like a gray, damp, low-hanging cloud while the “still-carefree” siphoned out from the pews row after row. I would look over the “mechitza,” the barrier that separates men from women, and catch my father’s eye. He’d blow me a reassuring kiss that no barrier could impede. His own mother had died when he was only 4 in a war-torn Europe that had no mercy for the dead or the living. My heart would fill with anxiety as I exited toward the lobby with the other "lucky ones.' For even at a young age, like him, I’ve always been a worrier and I knew, one day, I too would have to stay. That one day came all too soon. I will never forget the night that my father smelled a fire in the house. We all jumped out of bed. He smelled it the next night too and the one after that. At age 62, my father died of a brain tumor, a glioblastoma whose deadly tentacles spread out like Hitler’s conquering murderous Luftwaffe. At 29, I would be among those who stayed. I too would hold a thin, 8-paged “Yizkor” pamphlet that weighed a thousand pounds, saturated with tears, grief and regrets.
I had never understood why it was necessary to formalize personal memorials, to put my grief on a schedule. Why should someone be all but commanded to remember someone they have loved and lost? What else could they ever think about? I could never understand it until the day God took you away from us forever. Losing a father like you who never let a day go by without saying how much you loved us and how proud you were of your family, a father who had endless patience to advise and listen, a father who paced the house and popped Tums after Tums until I came home safely from a date, a father who would stop any business meeting, no matter who sat before him, and say, “I’m never too busy for my daughter,”-- losing a father who was larger than life to me, an Israeli war veteran and my own personal hero, crushed my heart and soul and took my breath away. I often still can’t catch my breath when I think back on your last day. How ironic life is that you were there to celebrate my first breath and I was their to mourn your last.
The only way to numb the pain, I thought, was to try and forget and to block out the memories. You truly were a “Melech” David, a King David. Your every way and wisdom, your strength of character and dignity, all bespoke the manner of a king, and your crowning glory was the kindness and generosity of your heart. You really are the only person I’ve ever known who would leave a room when there was gossip. You entered every room with class and a smile and left it evermore lit and elevated because of your integrity and warmth. You were among very few men whom others wouldn’t sign a contract with because your word was more than good enough.
Remembering all you were was too painful. Life went dark. For years when my world was filled with questions and I needed to hear your voice in the consuming silence, I tried to forget you. When my heart was aching with grief, I longed to forget you. When my mind despaired for your wisdom, I ached to forget you. In trying so hard to forget, I didn’t realize that your voice and your wisdom, your love and your guidance, your arms and your essence have been around me all this time. They were also inside of me. It was not you who left me, but me who left you. I’m so sorry daddy for trying so hard to forget all that was taken from me when you died, that I forgot to remember what you left behind. I have succeeded only to bury you twice and miss you all the more.
I remember, daddy. I remember. I see you clearly before me now, your sweet deep dimples, your kind blue eyes, your large beautiful hands; I see you eating an extra bagel when you think no one's looking; I see you falling asleep while telling me a bedtime story when I was child. I see you speaking in Hebrew with pride and nostalgically reminiscing about the beaches in Haifa and of the Jewish Homeland you fought for and so adored; I see you coming home from a business trip with a bag full of gifts and a ton of tales to tell. I see you in the kitchen always hugging mummy and dancing with her and our little dog, Papoush, barking with jealousy; I see you walking to shul with your tallit bag under your arm and peace on your face. I see you holding your grandson during his bris and beaming with pride. I see you clinging to your golf tournament trophy with great enthusiasm for being the textile industry’s worst golfer. I see you at the head of the Shabbat table saying the prayers slightly out of tune but with all your heart and soul. I see you coming through the front door every evening after work with a huge smile and simply happy to be home. I remember, daddy. I see you, I hear you, I feel you. I remember you telling me when I started to become religious that before anything be sure that you’re mensch. I remember every single thing about you, daddy. And in remembering all you were, I'm reminded too of all that I must be. With the loss of you, I got lost in the shadows not realizing soon enough that you left me a legacy of light!