Fittingly, the Parshah that we are going to read tomorrow is Acharei Mot – אַֽחֲרֵ֣י מ֔וֹת – After the Death.
It is really strange to live by the two ways to count time. All of us have two birthdays, two ways to commemorate many things in our lives, mostly great ones. However, two days of death of the same beloved person may be too much to ask. I light memorial candles, my husband says kaddish, of course, but it just doesn’t seem enough. Are we ever able to ‘pay back’ our parents? When one is young, one doesn’t think much about this, but now, when I feel that I’ve lived much more than half of my life, I go back to this question more often. Despite my close relationship with my mother, and the fact that all of us try to do our best to talk to her, visit her, do things for her, we will be forever in her debt. So it is with my dad. It is hard to believe, and hard to understand why so many positive, amazing things had to happen in my life only after my father has left this world.
We looked alike. Everyone always knew whose daughter I was as even as a little girl I resembled my dad so much. In reality, I think I am more like my babushka, but he looked like her a lot, except, of course the height and statue that he got from my grandfather whom I’ve never seen. I think my dad was as fearsome as his father about whom there are some family legends even though he was killed in 1943 as many of our men were, fighting the Nazis.
How I wish my dad would see his all-girl family family now – with a new baby boy finally born to one of his granddaughters and another little girl in the family, with two weddings that happened since, and with all the success that his dear girls achieved, the older ones and the younger ones. I really do think that somehow he knows about it.
It is really me who doesn’t know. Not enough, for sure. Not enough of my grandparents, even though my grandma was a constant presence in my life. Not enough of my whole extended family, most of which was wiped out during the war. In those days one didn’t delve too much into family history especially if that involved Jewish history. Many people just lowered their voices even pronouncing the word “Jew”. Not my dad. Fearsome in a way, or just believing that he already lived through all the horrors, so nothing else could happen, he didn’t hide his Jewishness. While never following The Law himself, he somehow always pointed out that I live by it. He, certainly, is responsible for the fact that our girls have their Jewish sparkle in all of them despite the various degrees of adherence to the traditions. I miss his eyes, blue to the end as if he was always looking at the sky drawing his strength from there. I miss so many things about him.
How many times do you wonder – what’s THERE, in the place from where no one ever came back? With so many people in my family now gone, I am thinking about it more and more.
Meanwhile, I am making his favorite foods, and saying to myself “until we meet again”…..