By Jay Cairns
(AJNews) – It will be three years since my Parents, Bobby and Sharon Cairns z”l passed away, Nov. 21 and Dec. 2,2020 respectively. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about them and try to honour their memory through simple things, some small and easy, some larger and more difficult. We are blessed to have mechanisms in Judaism that are designed to help with processing life cycle events such as losing a loved one. Shiva is 7 days, followed by the 30 days (shloshim), and usually 11 months later the family unveils the headstone which completes the official cycle of mourning. Yahrzeit is the next opportunity (ritualistically speaking) to connect with loved ones – my comment after having experienced a few now would be that these opportunities are in a public space (by virtue of a minyan I suppose), and therefore the level of connection can be strained.
Memories are left for us, the living – and it is important to me to keep their memory alive. There are a number of ways to keep a loved one’s memory alive; historical photos, written, oral history and storytelling. Beyond that, what opportunities exist to honour our loved ones? Charity. Not everyone has the capacity or interest in parting with large sums of money and that’s fine, but consider doing something in honour of a loved one and keep their memory alive. Sponsor a kiddish, send a card, and or support a Jewish organization in their name.
The world has become a very confusing, ever changing place, but the one thing that remains and endures is love.
Over the last three years, I’ve had a lot of questions about what it means to be part of a community. Why it’s important and why we ought to continue putting time and energy into Jewish continuity. We’re part of a global community that is complex and simple at the same time – we’re all Jews. Recent events have reminded us of this fact.
I’m grateful for the interactions I have had with community members over the last three years about grief and depression, personal stories that reminded and humbled – that my brother and I were not the first – or the only ones – to face tragedy. The collective body of shared experiences, and shared stories has been both comforting and therapeutic. I came to the conclusion that community is family.
Perhaps more accurately…extended family, and like any family it comes with a lot of different personalities that don’t always agree about the particulars, but share in the broad strokes. The broadest of which is the value of life. Hug the ones you love, love hard because that is our super power that gives us the strength to build resilience and overcome. Hug the ones you love for all those who can’t.
Jay Cairns is the Executive Director of JNF Edmonton Region.