I am writing this in 2021, following a year of pandemic lockdowns. While most of us are doing okay, too many people we have known have been sickened, died, or suffered long-lasting effects from the novel coronavirus infection identified in 2019 and known as Covid-19.
One of the phrases heard regularly after someone has passed, especially from those who are Jewish, has been “May their memory be for a blessing.” In Hebrew, it is “Zikhronah livrakha.”
Polish people have their own phrase, “Świętej Pamięci.” Ś. P. is usually found at the top of Polish obituaries, gravemarkers, epitaphs, and prayer cards, where it may be abbreviated Śp. Sometimes it is found with a cross between the letters, Ś.+ P., and specifically refers to a Catholic or Christian person who has died.
Świętej Pamięci is the genitive case, used as a noun descriptor. In this case, it describes a person. While it literally means “of holy memory,” the phrase is often translated into English as “late.” Perhaps that is leaving something out.
When something is described as holy, it is dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred. We ourselves were blessed to have known them. It is an invitation to carry forward our memories of them, to keep their goodness alive.
Many religious traditions have an orientation in which we recognize the divine in one another.
As family historians, we remember. As we think about and write about those who have come before, we honor them. We bring their life and their love into our presence. We hold our memories of them as valuable, as precious, as holy. May their memory, and our research and sharing of them and their lives, be for a blessing.
This is why I write my stories about those who came before us. Świętej Pamięci – “Of Holy Memory.”
Edytorzy Wikipedii, “Świętej pamięci,” Wikipedia, wolna encyklopedia, //pl.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=%C5%9Awi%C4%99tej_pami%C4%99ci&oldid=63320744 (dostęp maj 26, 2021).
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