This past weekend the Kirshner-Maryles families observed the one year anniversary of my grandson Reuven’s death. Although the death of a loved one is never a celebration, I was almost tempted to use the word celebrate instead of observe.
I see Reuven’s life as a life to celebrate. This is how I plan to observe his yahrzeit. Our family will celebrate his life by being involved in weekend full of memorial tributes to him culminating with a Hachnasas Sefer Torah at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School. It began with a siyum dedicated to Reuven by Arie Crown’s 8th grade class.
Reuven’s parents – my daughter Tova and my son in law Neil (Rabbi Menachem Kirshner) have raised the funds to purchase a brand new high quality Sefer Torah for the school. Which the school really needed.
The difficult mourning process will come to an end for me. The aninversary of his death was this past Thursday. Both grandfathers were asked to say Kaddish for him for the entire 12 months of mourning. In Reuven’s case the 12 month period of mourning began after his actual burial which took place in Israel a few days after his death. That means I will end saying Kaddish this Shabbos.
The loss is still felt. But so too is the memory of his life which brings a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. Although Reuven lived for only a short nine years, his contributions were great. He impacted so many people via his grace and humor in life. He never saw himself as someone to be pitied. He felt he was a part of his family, friends, and community. The images I see of Reuven when I think of him all have a smile on his face.
Throughout his illness I kept the world posted. Both when there was progress and when there wasn’t. I shared with my readers the trials, tribulation, and triumphs of both Reuven and his parents. And I shared the grief my family and I had when he passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly. Even though his prognosis was never good, it was still a shock when it happened.
But the mourning period is over and it is time to remember Reuven for who he was and not for how he suffered. The joy in life he had is the joy we should feel in our hearts when we think of him. The maturity he had that was foisted upon him by his fate is a lesson for all of us. He was as dedicated to God and His Torah as any adult would be. He knew what prayer meant. And he was as diligent and sincere about it as any adult would be.
During Reuven’s illness, many people prayed for his recovery. I don’t know how many people were involved. Countless thousands no doubt. That is the beauty of modern day communications. It tends to spread a message like this with lightening speed far and wide.
There is one person however I would like to single out for special thanks. Mrs. Z.C. Reinitz. She was so moved by Reuven’s plight that she said an entire Sefer Tehillim every day and kept abreast of his progress via my blog and every other public exposition of his story. I can’t know this for sure… but I believe that no one was more dedicated to Reuven’s healing than Mrs. Reinitz was. And outside of family, no one was more devastated by his death than she was.
I would also like to thank her husband Moshe Reinitz for putting together a moving memorial tribute to Reuven and getting it published in the American Yated Ne’eman (available only in the print edition – page 151). I am truly humbled by such caring people as these. May their family be blessed with long healthy lives and much Nachas from their children. And once again my thanks to all who participated in praying for Reuven during those difficult years. May you all be blessed.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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