I just needed to post today as this day marks my father’s second Yahrzeit. Every year, the anniversary of the death of loved one is noted, even in a certain sense celebrated. There is a memorial prayer that is said. It is not uncommon for someone who has yahrzeit to lead services and many people the Shabbat (Sabbath) before will read from Torah or Haftorah.
This year I read from Torah, and I read one of my father’s favorite parts, so I thought it was fitting. It is the part where Joseph is toying with his brothers and finally cannot take it anymore and reveals himself to him. They are in shock and literally fear for their lives. It is such a dramatic portion, and my father had a flair for the dramatic.
It may seem odd to celebrate the anniversary of someone’s death, but two thoughts come to mind. First is it is really a way to celebrate their life and the many lessons they taught. It is also a recognition that our loved ones continue to live in us, even after they pass away.
The second thought is based on some conversations I have had with psychologists and therapists who have told me that people often times feel sorrow and pain around the time of the anniversary of someone’s death, even if they may not be consciously aware that the death was around the time they are feeling down. It is helpful to do something to acknowledge that difficult time.
In effect, I think when this tradition was added to Judaism, it showed great foresight and wisdom. I think it helps many of us deal with the difficulties. I still have some difficult times dealing with the loss of both of my parents (my mother died in August but I find myself thinking about both of my parents around the Yahrzeit of each), but these customs make it easier.
I said it to them numerous times while they were alive, but I will say it yet again, “Mom, Dad, I love you both very much”!