Partly this is the nature of living in Israel. I cannot help but feel the sadness and the solemnity of this day when I wake up each morning to hills that once were bloodstained but now are national parks, thanks to the boys whose blood once covered them. I can't help but feel the loss of men young and old when I just have to look at people in my neighbourhood to see the gaps in their families which gape open more widely on this day.
And partly, the longer I live here and the older my oldest son gets, the more I feel Yom Hazikaron, this day of memory, leeching into the future as well.
Every year, my son gets one day closer to receiving his tzav giyus - his first call-up papers. Every year we ratchet one notch closer to his friends receiving theirs. Every year, I fear, takes me one step closer to feeling this day far more intensely than I ever wish to feel it.
Perhaps I am morbid, but on this day of all days when I see my son's beautiful friends at a tekes yom hazikaron, shining with potential and excitement for the years ahead of them, I cannot avoid the knowledge that the chances of one of them being killed in battle are very high. I cannot help but look at my new-minted teenage son and see the shadow creeping towards him. One day, he will have to grapple with the burning pain of losing a friend, if not an old friend then a new friend, someone he has known since elementary school or someone he hasn't yet met. On Yom Hazikaron, I feel the pain of the past and the pain of the future.
I know that I am not the only mother who feels the pain of this day creeping forwards each year. I know that every year there will be new losses on this day,
families with new holes in them, friendships newly sundered.
Those young men and women who we have already lost are also not just lost in the past. They are lost in the future too. The children they would have born have been killed. The people they would have taught and changed live on untaught and unchanged and all unknowing of what they could have experienced. The inventions they would have developed, the art they would have created, the music they would have made and the worlds they would have changed are all lost to us. We will never know what futures might have been.
This is the saddest aspect to Yom Hazikaron. If it was just a day of memory - we are a nation that is sadly accustomed to mourning. But it's not just a day of grieving for the past, but a day of grieving for the present and future too.
I read once that what makes men saddest is when their sons join the army. Because they fought and they lost friends and they felt that pain of loss for one reason - so that their sons wouldn't have to. But time moves on and their sons do have to. Time moves on, and life moves on, but one day a year we stop to acknowledge past, present, and future pain.