How will our children remember these times?
By Rabbi Haviva Horvitz
Temple Beth Sholom, Middletown
The word commencement is a noun, which is defined as a beginning or a start. It is also used when referencing a ceremony in which degrees or diplomas are conferred on graduating students. Doesn’t that seem contradictory?
Those who are graduating and their families celebrate what has been completed; yet the focus of the word is on the new beginning it represents.
This year, due to the pandemic, nothing is normal. With social distancing and other restrictions, there will be no dancing at prom and no big ceremonies. Everything for seniors will seem anti-climactic.
However, graduation is a beginning. How we respond to these unusual circumstances is what will mold the character of future generations.
Don’t get me wrong; ceremonies are very important in Judaism. From bris/baby namings, to Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, to weddings, to funerals, the community gathers for every lifecycle ceremony.
This year, all these observances have been challenging. But we have found ways to show support for times of loss and celebrate times of joy from a distance. We have connected by “car parades” and Zoom gatherings.
The first yahrzeit for my father fell during the beginning of these difficult times. Although not the same, it was comforting that I was able to attend a Zoom service and say Kaddish. In addition, my family has been gathering via Zoom weekly for Havdalah ever since. It has been a wonderful way for me to stay in touch with family in New York, New Jersey, and Oregon.
I began to wonder: Why didn’t we do this sooner? I hope we can continue long after the crisis is over.
There is talk of the “new normal” and how once everything is reopened and we all go back, it won’t be like it was before.
Someone on the radio recently compared it to after 9/11. Prior to those terror attacks and the subsequent “Shoe Bomber,” no one would imagine we’d have to take our shoes off at the airport or wouldn’t be able to go all the way to the gate to welcome someone. Now, it is simply understood. What becomes important with this new normal is perspective and attitude.
So let us find ways to stay connected, be positive about what has been accomplished, and find ways to make everyone appreciate that the community is here to help. As they say, we are all in this together.
Here is a piece I found online and wanted to share. It may be a simplistic prediction of how things will be remembered, but it encourages us to make the most of our time now.
CHILD: “How old are you, Grandpa?”
GRANDPA: “I’m 81, dear.”
CHILD: “So does that mean you were alive during the coronavirus?”
GRANDPA: “Yes, I was.”
CHILD: “Wow. That must have been horrible, Grandpa. We were learning about that at school this week. They told us about how all the schools had closed. And moms and dads couldn’t go to work so they didn’t have as much money to do nice things.
They said that you weren’t allowed to go and visit your friends and family and couldn’t go out anywhere. They told us that the shops and stores ran out of lots of things so you didn’t have much bread, and flour, and toilet rolls.
They said that summer holidays were cancelled.
And they told us about all those thousands of people that got very sick and who died. They explained how hard all the doctors and nurses and all essential workers worked, and that lots of them died, too. That must have been so horrible, Grandpa!”
GRANDPA: “Well, that is all correct. And I know that because I read about it when I was older.
But to tell you the truth, I remember it differently…
I remember playing in the garden for hours with Mom and Dad and having picnics outside and lots of barbecues.
I remember making things and fishing with my Dad and baking with my Mom.
I remember making forts and learning how to do handstands and backflips. I remember having quality time with my family.
I remember Mom’s favorite words becoming, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea…’ rather than, ‘Maybe later or tomorrow, I’m a bit busy.’
I remember making our own bread and pastry. I remember having movie night three or four times a week instead of just one.
It was a horrible time for lots of people, you are right.
But I remember it differently.”
Remember how our children will remember these times.
Be in control of the memories they are creating right now, so that through all the awful headlines and emotional stories for so many that they will come to read in future years, they can remember the happy times.
— Author unknown
May we all share positive memories in the future and may we all be healthy and safe.