WISDOM

08/20/2020

When I attended Western Theological Seminary, I was befriended by a man named Stan, one of my professors. As the years went by, Stan and his wife Nancy became friends. A year ago, Stan died after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. Shortly after the anniversary of Stan’s death, I saw Nancy. Her face was radiant when she said, “I must tell you about something wonderful that happened this week!”

Knowing that it was the one-year anniversary of Stan’s death, I wondered: what could possibly be “wonderful”? Nancy then shared that a friend gave her a Yahrzeit candle, which is a special candle that comes from the Jewish tradition of honoring the departed.  Nancy explained, “The candle is lit at sundown on the eve of the anniversary of your loved one’s death and it burns for 24 hours. My children and I met on the anniversary date of Stan’s death.  We placed the Yahrzeit candle in the center of our circle.  Then we shared stories and remembrances of Stan.  It was such a meaningful and special time of remembering.”

I have long encouraged people to care for others by remembering the anniversary of their loved one’s death. Giving a grieving friend this candle is such a caring act and it gives them a tangible way to honor their loved one.

Do you know someone who will soon mark the anniversary of a loved one’s death? If you decide to give them a Yahrzeit candle, perhaps you could also include a few Psalms to consider reading during the lighting of the candle. My personal favorites are Psalms 23, 121, 130, and 142.

Another option is to read a poem that is adapted from the following Jewish prayer of comfort titled, “We Remember Them” by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer.

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
we remember him.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember him.
In the blueness of the sky and the warmth of summer,
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember him.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we remember him.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
When we are lost and sick at heart,
we remember him.
When we have joys we yearn to share…
butterflies, good food, beautiful music…
we remember him.
So long as we live, they, too, shall live,
for they are now a part of us, as
we remember him.

                  Amen.

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