Repeat after me, please: Joseph Littner. Out loud.
Joseph Littner was my father. My beloved, gentle-to-me, tougher-than-nails, book-smart, street-smart, handsome, man’s man, man. The same man who survived torture, watched his sister die of starvation, watched his mother freeze to death, watched his father shot to death and helplessly watched his only son cry day and night in pain for months until he died.
Joseph Littner. Say it out loud, please.
The same man who pulled himself together. That man fathered me years later, found a job that lasted forty years, a marriage that lasted fifty years, managed to develop a social life, helped me ride a bike, helped me get into college, and watched me delight him with a son-in-law and three grandchildren.
Joseph Littner. Say it out loud.
Dad’s gone now. And every year on the anniversary of his death I have said Kaddish, the one prayer in Judaism that must be said with nine others, never alone. I cannot do that this year.
They say that a soul never really dies and is never forgotten if the person’s name is said aloud, is repeated, is remembered. We remember heroes and we remember devils. Some, for thousands of years. Because we repeat their names. We tell their stories.
Joseph Littner. Out loud, louder.
I cannot honor my father this year with the holy prayer of Kaddish but I refuse to let his name die. If his name does not die, he will not die.
Please. Please. Say his name. Draw in your mind the image of a true good soul. Help me remember him for as long as I live and as long as you live and as long as people continue to say his name.