Last year, after posting many stories and thoughts about Shalom a"h and sending around emails about him, I got a letter from someone that really touched my heart. You can read that letter over here.
I was so amazed at how this girl took the message to heart and took something concrete upon herself after she heard all the special things about my brother. That to me is the most comforting - when I see that other people do mitzvos and change themselves because they were inspired by the things Shalom a"h did. You see that the little things that people do, those are really big. That's what made him special. That he went out of his way to do small acts of chessed.
When I was in high school and had to stay late for some extra curricular activities and I was hungry, Shalom biked right over with some delicious supper for me. As soon as I called my house, he stopped whatever he was doing, got the food for and brought it over as if it was no big deal. He was always ready and available to help everyone with whatever they needed.
One thing I wanted to share with you is that the boy who was up in the tree with Shalom (and was having a conversation with him right before he fell down) just got married - on the night of the yartzheit. So although his chuppah was before sunset (so it counts as the day before), he was dancing and celebrating his wedding on the yartzheit itself - and I'm sure Shalom a"h was dancing on high and smiling along with all the people at the simcha. The boy's mother called my mother to invite her to the first sheva brachos which would take place on Shalom's 5th yartzheit - and the chosson would be making a siyum l'ilui nishmas my brother! Is that not amazing?!
Yesterday was also my nephew's first birthday. He was born on the yartzheit and was named Shalom Baruch after Shalom a"h. It was such a nechama for our family that a baby boy was born on this special day. I wrote about it last year right here, how I truly felt that Hashem was giving us a hug and comforting us all along. Since Shalom was niftar before he had a chance to get married and have children, having relatives named after is a way of continuing on his name, his legacy.
The message I try to take from this day is that a person never knows how much longer they have to live. And once a person is niftar, that's it! There are no more chances to do more mitzvos or improve one's character! We must take advantage of the time we have while we are here to do things that make us better people, to improve the lives of others and come closer to Hashem.
Shalom a"h focused on the little things. He found ways to do small acts of kindness for other people, quietly, without getting attention for the things he did. He didn't want anyone to know how special he was. He just wanted to be the best person he can be - which he was. Now, it's up to us to learn from all the things he did and try to follow in his footsteps.
Yesterday, I lit a candle and davened and cried. The reason why we light a candle on someone's yartzheit is because the neshama of a person is compared to a candle. It says "ner elokim nishmas adam." There is a burning desire inside each and every one of us to do the right thing and aim high. Whichever way you turn a candle, the flame will always go upwards. Try it! Turn a candle upside down and watch how the flame still burns upwards. This is to show that a person's neshama always wants to reach up and come closer to Hashem and no matter which way you turn, what situation a person is in, there is always that flame, that desire to be a good person and reach for the stars!
Also, when you light one candle from an existing flame, you do not diminish the light that the original flame had. This is how it is with spirituality, with neshamos and with learning from other people. You can give and give and it wont take away from the original light. When we learn from my brother and try to be like him, he will shine so brightly and we too will illuminate our own lives.
May we all be zoche to follow in Shalom a"h's ways and take advantage of the time we have here to come closer to Hashem each and every day!