Sunday, October 25, 2015

Obligations And Memories

Instead of going to the blog shoot this weekend I had obligations in Toronto to attend.

We arrived Friday, leaving after work.

On the happy side this weekend, on Saturday we casually celebrated my father's 71st birthday, which had taken place earlier this month.

But today was a more solemn occasion.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of my Father-in-Law Boris' death.

So this morning we drove out to the cemetery, Natasha and I and the kids, meeting up with Natasha's mom and sister, and my Dad and Step-Mom to attend.

Cancer sucks, and intestinal cancer sucks, and sucks quickly. He died fifteen days short of his 70th birthday.

I have many memories of him, a fine, cultured and good man who had left the Soviet Union after a hard life there, growing up as a Jewish child during World War 2 and starving, his parents dead with his father disappeared in the war -- he was killed either by the Nazis or the NKVD, and to this day no one knows which, or they aren't saying. He grew up as a Jew in Russian with all that entailed, becoming a jeweler and watchmaker.

He then went on to have not an easy life in Canada, after finally being able to leave the Soviet Union with his family. His life in Canada included learning a new language and culture, and working very, very, hard in order that his children might have better lives. He succeeded.

I remember meeting him for the first time and for the last time, and all those times in between, including his holding my first daughter, his granddaughter. My second child has her middle name of Beth in his honor, having been born after and never meeting her maternal grandfather.

We did a short ceremony at his grave, including the recitation of the El Maleh Rachamim prayer that is said when visiting a grave. We also placed stones on the grave headstone in the Jewish tradition, and flowers in the Russian tradition.

We also stopped by my Mom's grave, which is in the same cemetery. She died in 1994 at age 49, of type 1 diabetes. Again much, much, too young, especially so now that I'm in my forties and it all still feels like yesterday. Lots of memories there, many good and many bad as instead of being quick, Diabetes Type I is a slow and cruel killer. For all that she and the family muddled through until the end, and to say that my Dad was a rock who kept everything together throughout would be an understatement.

Again, we recited the El Maleh Rachamim prayer and added stones to mark our visit.

There's lots of good company there. Nearby my mom's grave was that of Rabbi Jordan Pearlson, an intellectual giant of a man, not to mention a true mensch. The founding rabbi of the congregation I grew up in and a great influence for good in the lives of many including myself. He died in 2008 after a lifetime of service to the community and Toronto.

Afterwards we all went to a Russian restaurant for a very special lunch to commemorate Boris. We had the restaurant, which was a very small room with two tables reserved for the occasion. We had the room all to ourselves for a couple hours and it was a very special feast in true Russian style. The table was covered in Russian specialty appetizers and then the main course arrived and kept arriving, followed by dessert. To say the food was incredible would be an understatement. It was a fine feast in Boris' honor.

Then we got in the car and headed home, leaving behind stones and taking more memories with us.


Keads said...

I understand your absence and am glad you honored them.

ProudHillbilly said...

I have pebble in my hand, and I lay it on his headstone.

Murphy's Law said...

Fully understand the absence. I only met Boris a couple of times but I really liked him. You could tell that he was a man of character right off. And it's evident in his daughter and granddaughters today. You and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers this weekend. We still mocked you a bit, but to be fair, we'd have done the same if you'd been present so it's kind of like you were.

Regards, my friend.

OldAFSarge said...

Remembering those who have gone before, a duty and an honorable thing. May their memories be a blessing.

Expatriate Owl said...

Before my wife and I relocated to Israel we took a caravan tour of the various cemeteries to pay our respects to our various and sundry deceased relatives, including my wife's parents, my Dad, my sister, our grandparents, a few great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Like your people, these relatives were awesome people.

After we arrived in Israel, a cousin of mine found a great-great grandmother in another cemetery. She, of course, is on my visitation list for my next trip to the States.

Scott said...

I've know you and your lovely wife for a while now, but never knew any of this. Thanks for sharing a little of your past. Makes me appreciate both of you even more.