“Don’t forget to smile when you wake up”

Memorial Day ceremonies have begun!

By Anat Schneider | | Topics: Memorial Day
Event to commemorate Dekel Swissa. Photo: Anat Schneider
Event to commemorate Dekel Swissa. Photo: Anat Schneider

Not that for a moment we stopped remembering and crying, and in the last year even more so. Death surrounds us and the pain has no end. And the memory burns and is strong and deep within us.

Like it is every year, as soon as Passover ends, two very significant weeks begin in Israel: first with Holocaust Remembrance Day. Then a week later the Memorial Day for the IDF fallen and the victims of terrorism. And the very day after this unimaginable sadness, we celebrate Independence Day – an illogical connection on the one hand, and very logical on the other.

See: Israel Remembers Her Fallen, Then Celebrates Their Victory

This year the Memorial Day ceremonies began immediately after Passover. So many dead have been added over the last 7 months, and so many households have been added to the national “family of the bereaved,” that it is necessary to accommodate and honor as many as possible. I think everyone in Israel knows someone taken, fallen or injured since October 7th. A message was sent on our moshav village’s WhatsApp that the sisters of the fallen soldier Dekel Swissa, in collaboration with the regional Judean Council, were organizing an evening in Dekel’s memory, in one of the most beautiful places in Israel, near Moshav Bar Giora, a place called “Bar Behar.”

This is the area where Dekel lived and spent his childhood.

Photo: Anat Schneider

I registered Aviel and myself to participate in this evening of remembrance. On the same day it took place, we received a reminder message where it was written that this evening was intended for the youth(!) This is something I failed to notice when I signed up, but I believe there are no coincidences. And if we signed up, we should probably be there. My heart has been with this family for 7 months.

So we came. At the entrance we asked if it was okay for us to join? They welcomed us gladly. And how sad it was to be there! But how important to hear and see the other sides of Dekel, sides we knew less about. And how important it was for the family to see others there and understand how much we are with them in our hearts.

His sisters Lital and Noi talked about Dekel. They projected on the screen, pictures from his life and told significant stories. It was amazing to see how much a 23-year-old guy managed to do in his short life. Unbelievable. Each told about the last memory they have of him and how this memory took on a different meaning. For example, Noi said that the four siblings have their own WhatsApp group. On the eve of Simchat Torah, when Dekel remained on duty in the army, he sent a message to his siblings and asked them, “Well, are you preparing for the holiday?

Photo: Anat Schneider

They projected that last text message on the screen for us to see. Noi even showed us on the screen that none of the siblings had even bothered to reply to the message.

Ouch. That hurt.

Later, on the evening of October 6th, they talked with him on a video call and Noi decided to record it, something she never does on video calls. But a voice inside her told her at that moment that she should take a video of Dekel. And then Noy put together the whole story. She said that today in retrospect she understands the whole course of events. “In retrospect, the fact that we didn’t reply to his text message and that I filmed him took on a different meaning.”

And she explained:

We didn’t write him back about preparing for the holiday, because today we realize that there was NO holiday, and there was nothing to prepare for. And the video I took was because I knew I needed to have a last record of my brother.”

Something inside her realized that she needed one last image of Dekel. No eye was left dry in the audience. In general, our tears flow very easily most of the time. It doesn’t take much to make me cry, to make us cry. Dekel’s oldest sister closed the evening with a song from Psalm 34 verses 13-14.

Who is the man who desires life, loves days to see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”

Throughout the memorial evening, the speakers reminded us of the slogan that Dekal lived by and that they publish today everywhere they can:

“Don’t forget to smile when you wake up!”

Thanks to this optimistic slogan that Dekel left with us as his last will and testament, it might be possible to move from this difficult Memorial Day to some form of celebrating Independence the next day.

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