Monday, January 31, 2005

Everybody! Everybody!

Everybody! Everybody!

This is by far one of my favorite websites. Check in weekly for updates, and be sure to check out the archives for some great on-line cartoons.

Life and death all rolled in to one.

Today is both the first birthday of my daughter, Aviyah, and the first anniversary of the death of my father-in-law, Alan Stone. Today there will be two candles lit. One for life and one for death. Funny thing is that the candle for Alan burns the whole day, while Aviyah's candle will be lit for a short while and then blown out. Aviyah is growing, and not just in the physical sense of the word. She is becoming more of a person each day. In the past two weeks, she has begun to walk more, play more, laugh more, and make her own brand of jokes. Yesterday, she put a towel on her head and crawled in to show Hadar, her big sister. Aviyah becomes more in my mind. Alan seems to become less. I knew him for several years. I spent many weekends with him and Marilyn, Paula's parents. We did not have a lot of conversations together. He was a quiet man with a lot going on in his mind. Alan was such a presence in his home and in his family's life. When he died, it was hard not to notice, even living as far away from New Jersey as we do. Still, Alan has faded a bit in my mind over the past year. In his last days in hospice, I saw his life-force flicker and diminish. This might be why the yahrtzeit burns for one full day, and the birthday candle only for moments. Perhaps each is inversely propotional to their image in our minds. Aviyah's life burns brightly; we need no reminder. Alan's life is becoming memory, legend; we need concrete ways to remember him.

In Judaism, people are sometimes quick to shy away from talk of the afterlife. In one of the most often recited blessings, we say, "Bountiful are You, Adonai, Reviver of the Dead." Many moderns find this difficult. God is going to revive the dead? When? How? Why? People often fudge the translation, making it out to mean that people become immortal through the memories of their family. But I fear that this is not true. Yes, in one generation, one can keep memories alive, and mabye Hadar and Aviyah will, and maybe their children will. But how much longer can that go on? My optimistic side tells me that Judaism has done well with this challenge for over 3000 years. My pessimistic side tells me that when it comes to individuals, there are just too many people to remember with such detail. Perhaps that is why the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) tells of so few individuals. The Tanakh is more the story of a nation than anything else. So if there is something about us that is immortal, I do not know what it is. But memories do fade. And that candle sitting on my stove is one of the few things that will jog our memories.

But wait. There is another. Actually, for Alan, one just need ask about Aviyah's name to hear the story of last year. Aviyah was born two weeks before Alan died. She was named Zivah Ariel, for Paula's grandfather and for my grandmother. But when Alan died, we changed the name to Aviyah, God is my Father, for Alan, whose Hebrew name was Avraham Avigdor. Alan was buried on Friday and Aviyah was named in Paula's home synagogue the very next day. You should have seen how people tried to greet us with such news. The Yin-Yang was palpable. As it should be.