This Sunday, Yud Zayin Av, will be my brother Shalom's 7th yartzheit.
For me, every yartzheit is another reminder. A reminder that we are not here forever. That life is short and we must utilize every moment we have here...to do good things...to grow...to become better...and to make the lives of people around us a little happier. That at the end of a person's life, all that really matters is the mitzvos they did, the torah they learned, how they worked on themselves and improved the lives of those around them.
Every year, my family goes to my brother's kever on the yartzheit. As much as I cry and as much as I miss my brother, going to his kever is a reminder for me about what is really important in life. When I look at my brother's tombstone, I concentrate on the things written there, a beautiful inscription describing some of the qualities that made him the special person that he was.
And I think...what is it going to say on my tombstone...after I die? I know it's a scary thought but...after a person is gone, this is how they are remembered. And this is what is important. Not the way they dress and not the makeup they wear, not how fat or skinny they are and not how much money they have. It's how they use their talents, their personality, their looks, their money...how they use the gifts they were given to become a better person and do good things.
No one knows how long they will live. My brother didn't know that he was going to die so young. We don't know how much time we have left. We need to use our time wisely. I have a yearly reminder for that. And I'm passing on this message to you. We need to stop and think. Where am I headed? What do I want to do with my life? What are my goals and how can I achieve them?
The word goal sounds a little bit much to me. Too big and too broad. It needs to be broken down. I think most people want to be generally good people. But what does it mean to be good? Life gets tough. Many times, decisions are hard to make. It's not always between good and bad, between black and white. There's so much gray. So much that is not defined. That cannot be put into a box.
So, many times...I'll think about my brother. About what he would say, what he would think is okay. And it helps. Because, when there is someone you think about that is not alive anymore, decisions, things that you are unclear about, right and wrong and those gray areas...it puts things into perspective and helps you realize what really matters and makes you think is this really important? Is it really okay to do this thing? What would Shalom say?
And I know...that once a person is gone, they cannot do any good deeds anymore. We can do things to make their neshama go higher, mitzvos, brachos, tefillah, chessed...it's all in our hands. We are all in the olam ha'asiya, where we can still do. And we can do actions that can elevate his neshama to higher places. I don't know exactly what that means but I feel like I am able to give him gifts, wrapped with beautiful bows...and send them to him up high where he will smile and be happy with each one he gets. My good deeds, my actions that are done l'ilui nishmaso, are those gifts.
Losing my brother gave me things I would not have gotten otherwise. Things I would never have asked for, pain and emotions I don't wish on anyone, but things that are priceless. Lessons and messages about life and what really counts, yearly reminders, and tools to keep things in perspective.
For those of you who never read the details of the story, you can click on the links on the sidebar below the picture of my brother. His story is unusual. He was not sick for some time before he passed away and my family did not have any warning. From one minute to the next...and a few hours later...and he was gone.
One last message to all of you. Appreciate those close to you. Appreciate your family, your siblings, your parents and your friends. Even if they annoy you sometimes, even if you they get on your nerves or get you upset. You never know how much time you have left to spend with them. I would give anything in the world to have some more time to spend with my brother. You don't have to wish. You have those people close to you all the time. Just appreciate them.
May this post and all the inspiration gained from this blog be an ongoing zechus for my brother, Shalom ben Chaim Nosson and may his neshama continue to go higher and higher in gan eden.