There are many ways one can commemorate the loss of a loved one. The route I chose is undoubtedly unusual, but it nevertheless keeps my mother alive for my family and me.
It was the day before Chanukah 2013. My husband and I were to host our annual family get-together right after lighting the first Chanukah light. We had everything under control. The table was set, the grandchildren’s gifts were wrapped, and most of the food was already prepared. I had even found time to hang up the Chanukah decorations.
Then the phone rang.
My mother, Florence Garfinkel, a”h, had just passed away in the U.S. The funeral would take place in Israel the following evening, after the first Chanukah light was lit. Slowly, my family dismantled all signs of the Chanukah party that now would not be held.
I insisted that one decoration, a dancing sevivon (dreidel) man, remain hanging in recognition of the chag. Some in my family questioned the appropriateness of this decision. Was it proper to have decorations hanging in what would soon become a house of shiva? I felt it was what my mother would have wanted me to do. I also felt it would be a source of comfort for me to see it hanging on the wall.
Time went by, and it was the day of shloshim for my mother. Our family sat around the table, sharing our memories of her. One of my nieces spoke of the common thread running through her young children’s recollections of their bubbie. Each one gleefully spoke about Bubbie and the frogs.
The children had remembered my mother tossing toy frogs onto the Seder table when the ten makkot were mentioned.
At first, my niece felt that it seemed wrong for the children to just focus on a yearly event when there was so much more they had learned from their bubbie. She then thought about it some more, and realized that my mother had left the children with a wonderful legacy: being able to look at the chagim with a sense of joy.
And so I do something unusual to honor my mother’s memory. I sit amid a table full of hopping origami frogs that I patiently created. I plan to put them in a container along with my Pesach supplies and have them ready to be thrown during our family Seder.
One need not look far for inspiration in order to commemorate a loved one. Just remember more of the words from the children’s Pesach song I used in my title, “There were frogs here, frogs there…”
You simply have to open your eyes and look around – and you will find what you seek.