For Jews the world over, the High Holiday season is a time for reflection on the past year and of remembrances of loved ones. Prayer, repentance, charity and festive meals make this an appropriate time to honor family traditions and legacies, and to recall those who are no longer here.
While holidays typically are a challenge to those who have lost loved ones, Rosh Hashanah presents opportunities to lovingly remember them. In fact, it’s the perfect time to draw on the healing power of living and loving memories. A special custom, prayer or recipe can evoke the memory of a loved one. At your holiday meals, encourage your family and friends to tell stories and anecdotes about those who have passed on. It can be very cathartic and therapeutic for those who are sharing remembrances. And it ensures that loved ones are not forgotten.
I’m thrilled that my new book, My Living Memories Project Journal, is being launched this week. I created this unique workbook to help people capture the memories and passions of their loved ones – everything from their hobbies, favorite foods and vacation spots to their accomplishments, traditions and favorite charities. I hope that it will help trigger memories of loved ones at your holiday table.
A companion to our award-winning 2014 book, The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, it includes inspirational quotes from our first book and other sources, soothing artwork and meaningful questions and activities. Quotes and questions in My Living Memories Project Journal range from reflecting on food and vacation memories, to pondering the enduring legacy of a loved one.
Especially appropriate for Rosh Hashanah is a quote from Florie Wachtenheim: “Cooking is an interest my mother and I shared. Having come from Europe, my mother was quite good at all the most traditional dishes, homemade gefilte fish, for example. This is probably the single tradition that I carry on and that means the most to me. She is in my head and heart when I compose each holiday menu.”
Another way of remembering is to bring out pictures and photo albums after the holiday meal. In our book, the late actor Jack Klugman told how he remembered his friend and acting partner, Tony Randall, by surrounding himself with his photographs.
“To remember him, I just look at a picture,” he said.
Photos keep memories alive for succeeding generations, too. It’s an opportunity to share your favorite holiday memories of the deceased with children and grandchildren.
Yesterday, my friend, Karen Lubell, showed me the cookbook she put together for her own family. Karen printed her first cookbook in 2001, which she dedicated to her family. It was created in Word on her PC, printed on her printer, and then taken to Staples to be laminated and bound. She noted that since then, technology has changed and her own family has changed and grown. So she put together a beautiful hard cover, glossy cookbook with color photos called “Karen’s Kookbook II.” She said she hopes that the recipes will be shared by many generations of her family. In addition to recipes with illustrations, she has photos of treasured family members and pictures of holiday celebrations and other family events. Karen is now planning her third version of the cookbook.
Another good activity when you have several generations together is to trace the family tree. In our book, Arthur Kurzweil tells how he carries on the memories of his ancestors through a lifetime dedication to genealogy.
“For the people who appreciate it, genealogy provides amazing tools for exploring identity,” he said.
Finally, one of the best ways to carry on the passions, values and memories of your loved one is to donate to a meaningful charity in his or her honor. The Living Memories Project has numerous examples of those who have endowed scholarships, established foundations, and organized charitable events to honor the memory of a family member or a friend.
I wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy and peaceful 5777. May you always find strength and comfort in living and loving memories.
Meryl Ain, Ed.D., The Comfort Coach, inspires people to transcend their losses by keeping alive the memories, passions, values and legacies of those they have lost. She helps to promote healing by providing professionals, organizations, and individuals with the tools to foster optimistic thinking, positive projects and resilience. A former teacher and school administrator, her articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, MariaShriver.com, The New York Jewish Week, The New York Times, and Newsday. Her new book, My Living Memories Project Journal, is available on Amazon. She is the coauthor of The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, a collection of heartwarming stories of lives remembered and actions taken by individuals and families to keep the legacies and memories of loved ones alive.