Remembering loved ones: Judaism offers ideas, so do individuals

My eyes welled with tears. I did not know this woman mentioned in our community newspaper, but her effort to remember her late brother moved me. Victoria Arthur, a pediatrician in Lexington, Mass., will run the Boston Marathon this month in memory of her brother, Peter, who died of a heart attack at age 32.

We can run a marathon, we can say a prayer, we can write. There is so much we can do to keep the spirit of a loved one alive. Today and tomorrow, many Jews will attend Yizkor, a memorial service, to remember loved ones as Passover ends. My rabbi’s announcement of this year’s service makes me realize how I am still figuring out ways to remember my brother.

By running in the Boston Marathon, Dr. Arthur will raise money for the Children’s Room, which provides counseling to grieving teens, children, and families. Her gesture is a profound, concrete act of remembrance. Dr. Arthur saw how the Children’s Room in Arlington, Mass., brother’s widow and young son. She wanted to help the organization do the same for other families.

My brother Kevin died at age 23. He was single and fairly new to the city of Denver, where he lived. Happy-go-lucky, he filled a room with his big smile and his energy. In the year after his death, a Boy Scout troop in our Ohio town dedicated two canoes to my brother’s memory. He had been a camp counselor in charge of boating. I had nothing to do with that remembrance. My parents set up a scholarship fund in Kevin’s memory at Ohio University, his alma mater. I again was not involved with that remembrance.

So far, I have found only one way to share my brother’s zest for life with others. I write. I write, but not just about my brother and a life cut short. I write about grief and the havoc it can cause to those left behind. I write about finding a way to go from darkness to light. I write about how faith, years later, can become a salve. I will not, though, attend this year’s Yizkor service during Passover. I have never attended a memorial service at Passover and did not know that Passover included such a service until recently. Maybe next year, I will go. For now, the memory of going to a Shabbat service around the anniversary of my brother’s death last month is fresh. I stood there among other mourners, remembered Kevin, and felt for others whose loss was newer.

My heart goes out to the Lexington doctor whose marathon run is fast approaching. Her brother died four years ago. My brother has been gone for 24 years. Grief, by its very nature, tends to be the toughest during the early years. Dr. Arthur likely will feel her younger brother’s presence as she runs mile after mile. The Arthur siblings, like Kevin and I, were less than two years apart. I do not know Dr. Arthur, but I feel like we are sisters – albeit decades apart – on this journey of sibling grief.

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