I have just lit the yahrzeit candle for my father. Tonight and tomorrow is his yahrzeit, 8 years since he passed away, according to the Jewish calendar. He had had problems with his heart his whole life. First it was broken in the Holocaust. His family was wiped away, most of them taken off to Auschwitz. In the late 40s he patched it together and found, loved and married my mother. In the 60s my parents adopted first me, and then my brother, and each time my father’s heart grew stronger, strengthened by family, the one thing that made life worth living for him.
It was in the late Seventies that he had his first heart attack. Another two followed in the 80s, and an “incident” in the 90s. In 2002 he had a quadruple bypass. He survived the surgery, but complications set in, hindered his recuperation, and he died six weeks later.
My father always said that he felt he was given a second chance at life. He loved life, and taught me and my brother that it was precious and not to be wasted. He so desperately wanted to live in Israel, but my mother had had enough wandering and he settled down with her in New York, and lived vicariously through me and my life in Israel. He once told me that it made him so happy that my children were the first members of our family in two thousand years to be born in the Jewish homeland.
So because my father loved life, revered it, I have chosen to celebrate his life on his yahrzeit, not to mourn him. Every year I cook up a big Hungarian feast, making all the foods he loved, and we invite friends and sit down at the table and raise a glass to a life almost extinguished, but brought back into the light.
Last year my father’s yahrzeit fell on the day that I was traveling to the States to clean out my mother’s apartment after she died. I didn’t have the time, and being deep in mourning for my mother, the inclination to put on a festive meal. So I went to a Hungarian bakery and bought some cakes and we celebrated the sweetness in life with the sweetness of Hungarian pastry. This year, this week, on this day my life, both vocational and personal, has taken a turn for the busy. Very busy. So on my way home from work I stopped off at that bakery once more and brought home some kyortosh, which isn’t really a Hungarian pastry, but is making a splash here in Israel as one. My father, who enjoyed a sweet nosh just as much as a savory bowl of my mother’s gulyas, would have enjoyed a bit with a hot cup of coffee, I know it.
Something else my father used to enjoy was singing songs in Hebrew, any song. Badly. My father so could not sing, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying him serenading me with a little Numi Numi each night as he put me to bed. And later on, after we had traveled to Israel for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, the song Rak B’Yisrael got stuck in his head and we all had to listen to him singing that as he sat reading the paper. And davka today my attention was brought to something that my father would have loved. I have a collection of photos on Facebook, and album called Only in Israel, filled with pictures that are unique to our sometimes odd but always wonderful and country. My friend Judi sent me an email to congratulate me, my Facebook album has been set to music and has been turned into a YouTube video. Here’s the link. My father would have loved it!