"At sunset tonight - Shevat 18 - we'll be lighting a yahrtzeit candle in memory of mom. Four years and I don't know about you, but there isn't a single day that goes by where I don't reach for my phone to call and tell her something about my day. So light your candles with me and eat a few Rolos. I'll be saying Yizkor and hugging Avi Freda, Mali Freda and Koby - her legacy. And what a legacy it is! Love you all."
This text message came this morning from my mom. She sent it to me, David, my sisters, my brothers-in-law, my aunts and uncles, and all of my cousins and their spouses. Because today is my grandma's yahrtzeit - the 4th anniversary on the Hebrew calendar of her death. In Judaism, this anniversary is marked each year by the lighting of a candle and the reciting of special tefilot, or prayers.
In my family, it is also marked by something more. Because we don't mourn a death so much as we celebrate a life. On this day, in Pittsburgh and New York and Cleveland and San Francisco, we are telling stories about the woman who made her mark on us all - who we were lucky to have with us for so long. We are eating her favorite foods and drinking her favorite drinks and wearing her favorite jewelry - pieces of which now live in all of our jewelry boxes; the privilege of living in a family full of girls.
It never escapes me that I am so incredibly lucky to live in the family that I do, and I marvel every day at whatever twist of fate made them mine. Looking around, I know that we are a pretty unusual bunch in our closeness, and yet, I can't escape the feeling that this is the way that it's supposed to be. That poking into each other's lives - wanted or not - with amazing regularity, celebrating big and little things, being together as much as we can, and knowing each other all the way through is how it's supposed to go. That this is family.
At least, it's my family.
So tonight, when I light Shabbat candles, I am going to be thinking of all of them. Of them, and of the woman whose life we celebrate today. The one who isn't really gone, because we are all here, together.
Just the way she would have wanted it to be.