Today marks six years since we lost my dad to cancer. My dad was integral in instilling in me the sense of adventure, travel and wander that I love to write about here and that I strive to share with my own kids. He traveled the world several times over (for work and pleasure) and he was always sharing hilarious, beautiful and memorable stories from places and adventures far and wide. He took my family (I am the 4th of 5 kids) on adventures frequently too.
My dad also had a great memory of places he had traveled. When I grew up and started traveling without him, whenever I prepared to travel somewhere new he would share all of the hotels, restaurants and sights he had visited in that place – including what streets they were on, what he ordered for dinner (even thirty or forty years ago) and maybe even the name of the concierge. He loved and appreciated meeting new people, embracing new cultures and experiencing traditions different from ours – and then sharing these experiences through stories. I don’t think he wrote them down so much, but I have vivid memories of listening to his stories and laughing a lot.
I remember hearing stories of the first time he walked on The Great Wall of China, sharing Vodka after a business dinner in Moscow, shopping in the markets in South America. Once, he traveled with a friend and co-worker after a conference in the far East and they visited churches, temples, mosques and synagogues around the world. I wish I could talk to him about these experiences in more detail these days – my mom shares her memory of some of them now. His curious, adventurous spirit has certainly been passed onto my brothers and me and my mom too.
My family grew up in the Catholic faith, however, after my dad died, a dear friend shared with me the Jewish tradition of lighting a yahrzeit candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. The custom is to light the yahrzeit – or “soul” candle – on the eve of the anniversary at sundown. And then to leave it burning for 24 hours (we don’t keep our candle lit – but we do light it several times throughout the day, usually around meals.) We also share wonderful stories of him when we light it – many that make us laugh just as if he was telling stories himself. I love sharing the tradition of lighting the yahrzeit candle with my girls – and appropriately, lighting it for my dad reminds me of my dad in so many ways. I am certain he would love this tradition from another culture that honors life & light. He was certainly full of both.