Zichro I’brakhah


The boyish face of a young man with sincere, yet solemn eyes flashed across my news feed the other day. It was Shai Kushner — a 20-year old soldier in the Israeli Defense Force’s “Lightening Brigade” who was recently killed near the Gaza border.

Under his name were the words, “Zichro I’brakhah.” In Hebrew, it means, “May remembering him be a blessing.”

I was struck by the power of those words. Such honor. Such beauty. It proclaims a profound, but subtle truth about remembering those who have gone before us. Their very memory should be an undying blessing.

Nine years ago this month, our firstborn son died. At 28 weeks in the womb, he unexpectedly twisted on his umbilical cord during the short time he and his twin sister were off the heart monitor at the hospital. I was scheduled to go home the next day on bed rest to await the birth of two healthy babies. Instead, Leyton quietly passed away into the arms of Jesus and I was ambulanced in the middle of the night to another hospital an hour away. Four weeks later, my little girl and boy were delivered together — one alive and the other dead.

I can still feel the fuzzy, blue blanket wrapped around his precious body. I can hear the creaking of the old wooden chair I rocked him in. And oh, how I can still see his beautiful face.

Even in pain, I am blessed to be Leyton’s mother. He is a blessing. And how I love for his memory to bless others. Unfortunately, I’ve had countless interactions where that has not been the case. And while, grief is no easy subject for any of us, such responses have troubled me.

Far too often, the message has been, “May remembering him not be too uncomfortable for me.” Knowing what to say or not to say in situations involving grief is just plain hard. But there is no way around it — to weep with those who weep requires a sacrifice of emotion. The God we serve is at home with the magnitude of such a pain and with suffering souls. Through His power, we can not only minister His heart in the most fearsome and guttural of conversations, we can be blessed by it.

Another implication woven into my conversations has been, “May remembering him be brief and on my timetable.” I’m often surprised by how many seem to have a clear picture of what “moving on” should look like. The trouble is — it’s subjective, sometimes critical, and dare I say, often unbiblical.

A couple of years after Leyton died, I ran into a casual friend. It was Christmas. A tough time for grieving.

“How are you?” she asked.

I dreaded the question. “We’re okay. It’s a tough time of year,” I said explaining the connection to grief, but not wanting to go into more details. Her response, however honest, ignorant, or even well-intentioned, disparaged my pain and therefore my love, “But that was a long time ago wasn”t it?”

God has placed eternal and lasting value upon each of us that does not end with the passing of years or with the location of our physical bodies. In fact, it is realized in death when we know Him.

Choosing the blessing of remembrance is to take hold of the reality of our individual and undying worth, the promise of heaven and the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for it.

So as another anniversary approaches, my soul delights in the words God has spoken over Leyton. He speaks them over you and over me.

We are beloved. And not even death can take that from us. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

We are a delight to God’s heart. He feels extravagant and abiding emotion over us that doesn’t fade with time. “He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

We are unforgettable — even when it feels friends and family have forgotten us and even when they have. I love Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

Happy 9th Birthday with Jesus, my Leyton! You are a beloved, unforgettable delight to us and to the God who made you, loves you and now holds you. Remembering you is a blessing because you are. And you always will be. Zichro I’brakhah.

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Julie Neils is passionate about living a real life in a fabricated world. Digging beneath the surface in her relationship with God and with others is the thing that gets her up out of bed. That and fussy little ones. And a big ol’ cup of coffee. As a media relations and branding consultant, she has spent more than fifteen years advising ministry leaders, policy makers and authors on relevant, out-of-the-box communications strategies. She and her husband, Brian, live in the Rocky Mountains where she homeschools their five kiddos.

  • Rebecca Armenta Verbeten

    Beautiful, Julie! We’ve seen a lot of death here in Israel this year. So many mothers burying their boys. But with each one came the reminder to let their memory be a blessing. Blessings to you!

  • julieneils

    Thank you, Rebecca! That means so much. I am praying fervently for Israel. Each time I hear of a death there, my heart breaks anew for those mothers. I will be praying for you as you minister. I loved your blog post yesterday!

  • Robin and I completely understand this. We have also miscarried, and the loss of Charity has almost been too much. You are dearly loved Julie Neils! Your expression of a mother’s heart in grief is also an offering of healing. Thank you.

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Zichro I’brakhah

by Julie Neils time to read: 3 min