Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.

My favorite blessing, the Shehecheyanu, is one that is said when doing something for the first time during the Jewish calendar year and when marking happy occasions (for instance, on the first night of lighting Hanukkah candles). But it’s this time of year when it really resonates for me the most – when saying the Shehecheyanu on the first night of the Passover seder.

It’s such a powerful message – that despite any circumstances that we are currently going through, we are still alive and here to mark this specific occasion. The reason why it particularly hits home this time of year is because 18 years ago, my mom died the day before Passover started. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six weeks earlier and in that brief amount of time, the diseased ravaged her body. Six weeks.

Each time one puts away whatever religious artifacts they use at the end of a holiday, such as the seder plate on Passover, he or she usually takes it for granted that they’ll see it again the following year. But for the past 18 years, I never take it for granted anymore. Even though the holiday will appear on the calendar the following year, there’s no guarantee that one will be there to greet it. So at the start of each holiday, I express my gratitude that I get another opportunity to celebrate it once again.

Thinking of you, Mom!