Today is February 21, 2019 -
By Rabbi Steven Abraham
While it is no joy when a member of our community passes, I have found an unfortunate opportunity to hear stories from family and friends of the deceased while preparing for a funeral. It is an honor to be able to sit with families and learn about their loved ones, to hear about their parents and for whom they were named. To hear where they grew up and their experiences in Omaha. How they met the love of their life, their hobbies, passions and skills. I can envision an era of Jewish Omaha that I was not privy to; perhaps they attended Central High and then walked across the street to the old JCC; perhaps they were married at the old Beth El building on 49th and Farnam. It has become an honor to hear how they will be remembered by their children and grandchildren, and the values they passed on to the next generation. Yet the greatest tragedy, other than the loss itself, is when the stories are a mystery…either because they were never discussed or no one ever asked. As I have written about before, one of the rituals of shiva is to hear from friends and family stories that were perhaps never known to the family. To hear what an amazing friend their parent had been, or what an honest and hard working employee or boss they had been. We know our loved ones through one lens; to hear from others is to complete a story for which we only know a few chapters.
What I would like to suggest is that we take the opportunity to ask our family members about their stories, where they grew up, what their parents and grandparents were like, when and where they met their spouse. To hear their story, unedited, what are they most proud of, their most cherished moments…etc. I would even advise that with the advent of modern technology to video or at a minimum record these interviews for later generations. How many of us have our great grandparents or grandparents on an LP or tape? What a gift it will be to pass on an mp3 or video to our own children and grandchildren.
I promise this will not be an easy task, but one that you will be thankful that you did.