A Memorial Service
On Monday, I attended the memorial service for a 22-year-old family friend. This young woman impacted the lives of hundreds and the church where the memorial was held was packed with people wearing her favorite color which was red.
This young woman never had an easy life. When she was born, the doctors told her parents that she would never walk or have much brain function. At five years old, she proved them wrong when said her first words. She used to walk my elementary school with a walker and then over time, she learned to walk on her own.
A House of Mourning
And then last night, I made a shiva call (the seven days of mourning after the funeral of a loved one) for a friend’s father. This was a man whom I had never personally met but had impacted the lives of many in my community. He was an educator, a mediator, and a friend. He was someone who loved learning and sharing his knowledge with the community around him.
As I sat at this house and listened to the stories about him, I truly gained a deep understanding of what this man stood for. He was a visionary and a trusted friend. He was a “rabbi” for people who didn’t have one. He was a supportive husband and an excellent father and he was a risk taker. At one point in his life, he gave up his profession to go to rabbinical school. He picked up his family and took a leap of faith. Little did I know this wasn’t the only leap he took.
Bird Calls and Skydiving
Both of these individuals whose lives we were celebrating learned how to “fly” during their life times. One learned how to use her charm, passion, and love to enter the lives of those around her. The other was always looking for new ways to learn, educate, and have fun.
One used to make bird calls twice a day using it as a way to communicate with those she loved. She didn’t care that these bird calls were “different.” She didn’t care about the “differences” that existed and as her uncle said “she didn’t view people by the color of their skin.” She didn’t think of herself as different and lived her life to the fullest. These simple bird calls made the people around her smile and the walls that might have been put up were easily broken down by this daily communication.
One jumped from a plane on his 60th birthday. His happiness and excitement from this experience showed a child-like happiness when there isn’t a care in the world. He lived in the moment and took every opportunity and challenge head on. To watch the video of his jump at the shiva (a rare occasion and the first time the rabbi who was there has ever watched a video after a memorial service) showed his passion for life.
In both memorials, I truly learned that it is okay to slow down and enjoy life. Both of these individuals’ lives were short in years but both of them showed me that I need to slow down and enjoy what is going on around me. Whether it be a daily tradition of five minutes to do something out of the norm or a ten minute gliding back to earth, I need to learn to appreciate what is around me.
May the lives of these two great individuals be remembered. May their memories remind us to slow down and enjoy life.