The Best July 4th Memory

When you wake up on July 5th, what will you remember from Independence Day for a day, for a year or for a lifetime?

Think back for a moment of the experiences you will never forget. Not simply ones that left you feeling good, but ones that resonate deeply within you until today.

As a Rabbi officiating at hundreds of funerals, I am struck by the memories children share in tribute to their parents. It is impossible to summarize a life in 20 minutes, but what memories endure?

The upcoming July 4th holiday evokes many childhood experiences. What do you remember? I will never forget driving with my parents to find a scenic spot overlooking the fireworks at Lenox Mall in Atlanta. We sat atop the hood of our car in the heat waiting for the spectacle in the sky. Ironically, the most impactful memory was not the actual fireworks but the ride in the car, family in tow, and the joyous expectation as we rode together on the hilly roads and darkening skies.

Life flies by so quickly. Looking back, it seems like a blink of an eye. Now, looking forward, how can we slow it down? We can if we heighten our awareness to each moment and create enduring memories.

The cost is minimal. The benefit is priceless. It is about attention, focus and time.

I will never forget one of the happiest moments in my life. Every Sabbath, I walked to synagogue. As a young boy, I remember walking with my father in the pouring Georgia rain. Cars would drive close to curb and splash us. Yet, although we were soaked, my spirit soured because the moment embodied the love and respect of a father and the shared timeless value of the sanctity of the Sabbath. Little did my father know the impact of this timeless moment together.

Creating memories can also happen in the middle of the night. At a recent funeral, I was confronted with a dilemma. An older woman passed away and in meeting with the daughter, she shared that her relationship with her mother was strained and she did not have anything to say to me in tribute. Nevertheless, I encouraged the daughter to share a few words. As we stood graveside this is what she shared: “I will never forget when I was 8 years old. I was fast asleep and my mother came up to my room at midnight. She woke me up. I turned to her and asked, ‘Mommy, why are you waking me up?’ She answered, ‘Honey, it is snowing outside. Get dressed and let’s go outside and play.’”

Fifty years of life with her mother and she remembers a spontaneous expression of love when we she was a child decades earlier.

Imagine we lived every day with such awareness. July 4th is one opportunity. What enduring memories will you create this year?

Seize opportunities to create memories reflective of your dreams and values and the words of Bob Dylan, “If you want to keep your memories, you first have to live them.”

Watch the Creating Memories video:

Wishing you, your families and our country a Happy July 4th!

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

[As seen on Huffington Post]

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