Gather family memories while you can; take solace in silence; support ‘Covered with Love’

By Debra Israel

Recently, I’ve been thinking about memory and memories.

This past February marked 20 years since my father’s older sister, my Aunt Julie, passed away.

My father had died in 1990, and their younger sister, my Aunt Rebecca, is now the last surviving sibling.

Debra Israel’s father Harold celebrates his 60th birthday in November 1989 with sisters (from left) Julie Isles and Rebecca Bakunin.

Unfortunately, my Aunt Rebecca, while still able to enjoy life with her fabulous laugh and smile, is no longer able to share her memories of family with us, as Alzheimer’s disease has ravaged her ability to speak.

I have my own wonderful memories of many special times with my aunts and my father, but I regret now that I didn’t ask them more questions about their lives.

I have my own wonderful memories of many special times with my aunts and my father, but I regret now that I didn’t ask them more questions about their lives growing up in New York City, about their experiences as children of immigrants, where their parents spoke a different language (Ladino) at home.

Luckily, my father shared his memories with my Uncle Paul, who is always telling me to share stories about my father with my own children.

Multiple perspectives help build a better history

Our own memory is helped by the repetition of favorite memories, although everyone’s memory of the same incident may actually be somewhat different!

We do not even retain complete memory of our own lifetimes. Instead, we must rely on the memories of others to learn about our own lives as infants.

What an amazing thing it is to be able to remember as an individual, as a family and as a community!

Perhaps the silver lining of the pandemic is to remind us that today is the day to make memories, and to gather the memories of our loved ones.

We know the importance of remembering history, which we often mark while celebrating holidays. But perhaps we sometimes need a reminder to share and preserve family memories while our loved ones are still with us.

Lately, we have lost so many special people in our own congregation.

Worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken many lives before their time.

Perhaps the silver lining of the pandemic is to remind us that today is the day to make memories — and to gather the memories of our loved ones — so those memories become our own, as stories to share with younger generations.

What an important moment this is for us to say, “May their memories be for blessing” and in doing so, enrich our own memory and memories.

Moments in time help quiet the mind

When I worked on the sailing sloop Clearwater on the Hudson River, during every public sail we would pause for a moment of silence.

The moment is even more powerful when you are silent in a crowd of 50 children!

During that silence, we would listen to the sounds of the world around us.

In yoga class, I learned to quiet the mind through silence and focusing on one’s own breath.

I hope you are able to take your moments of time for yourselves, for prayer, for appreciating the wonders of our bodies, our minds and our world!

Religious school selects its spring project

This spring, Temple religious school students and families are coordinating to make donations to Covered with Love, a local organization that provides diapers, baby wipes and baby hygiene products to low-income families.

If you would like to assist with monetary contributions, please send your check to
UHC Sisterhood, with “Covered with Love” in the message line.

We plan to make the donation in early May.

Debra Israel is a member of the United Hebrew Congregation Terre Haute board.

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