Too often when Labor Day arrives, the most common refrain when asked about our summers will inevitably be, “It went by so fast!” What I (the Rabbi) am about to share with you will make this summer one of the most memorable and meaningful you’ve ever you had.

You can reverse engineer your summer now to make it the best summer ever. The key is not stopping time but slowing it down. How? If we are fully present in each moment we are experiencing, we not only slow down time but create summer memories that will last forever.

Think back for a moment on the experiences you will never forget. Not simply ones that left you feeling good, but ones that resonate deeply within you still today. What memories stay with you? Fill in the blank: I will never forget__________.

As a Rabbi officiating at hundreds of funerals, I am struck by the memories children share in tribute to their parents. It is impossible to summarize a life in 20 minutes, but what memories endure? The words of Dr. Seuss ring true, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

I will never forget driving with my parents to find a scenic spot overlooking the fireworks at Lenox Mall in Atlanta. We sat atop the hood of our car in the heat waiting for the spectacle in the sky. Ironically, the most impactful memory was not the actual fireworks but the ride in the car, family in tow, and the joyous expectation as we rode together on the hilly roads and darkening skies.

I remember this moment so vividly for at least two reasons. It was a moment we experienced together as a family—a moment shared is one of the hallmarks of an enduring memory. More importantly, the experience reveals a fundamental truth. In life, the destination is not nearly as important as the journey. We got in the car for a family outing to watch the fireworks, which ironically yield a temporary burst of light, while the lasting lights were generated spending time with each other on the ride.

The cost of creating a memory is minimal. It is not about how much money we spend on a gift or vacation but on the attention, focus and time we give each other. The benefits are priceless.

Listen closely to a secret I am about to share—it will transform the way we live and the way we will be remembered.

We do not remember days, we remember moments.

Think back on the people close to you. What stands out in your memories? Usually it is an experience we shared with them or a moment in time. The days become a blur but the best of memories are created when it seems that time stands still and we never forget that shared experience. Do we appreciate (even know?) the impact of memories we create in the hearts and minds of family and friends?

One of the happiest moments of my life was walking to synagogue with my father one morning in the pouring rain. Although we were soaked, my spirit soared. There was no place I would rather have been at that moment than holding my father’s hand on the way to synagogue. The moment embodied the love and respect of a father and the shared timeless value of the sanctity of the Sabbath. Little did my father know the impact of this moment together.

In a dramatic and poignant way, this idea further resonated within me at a funeral this past year. I encouraged one of the deceased’s daughters to speak. Her relationship with her mother was challenging yet I urged her to take the opportunity to thank her mother and reflect, albeit briefly, on her legacy. She spoke for only a few minutes and introduced her remarks by stating that from over 50 years with her mother two memories stood out.

This is one of the memories that she shared: “I will never forget when I was eight years old. I was fast asleep. My mother came into my room around midnight. It was snowing outside, and she woke me. I was startled and wondered why she disturbed my sleep. I will never forget what she said that night. She told me she wanted me to get dressed so we could play together in the fresh snow outside.” Fifty years of life with her mother and she remembers a spontaneous expression of love when she was a child decades earlier.

How do we create such moments? The answer lies in ensuring that we are living in these moments. As the saying goes, life is not measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.

Time does go by so quickly but if we pause and reflect on the second we are experiencing and sense the opportunity within—to be present with a spouse, a friend, a child, to lend a hand, make a blessing, study one insight—the fleeting moment can be eternalized.

Not only will these memories be etched into our hearts, but our lives now will be so much more meaningful. With this perspective, we will be able to transform our lives and those around us…one step, one moment, at a time.

Seize opportunities to create memories reflective of your dreams and values. In the words of Bob Dylan, “If you want to keep your memories, you first have to live them.” Make this summer the very best yet!

Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

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