A very close family friend is dying. He's not seeing many people, but I had the opportunity today to sit with him, for an hour or so in the hospital. It was the most sacred gift I could have ever asked for, with him.
As a rabbi, I make many hospital visits - all the time. I'm comfortable being in hospitals, and I'm comfortable being the rabbi making those visits. I've had good training and lots of experience. But sometimes the lines get a little blurry - I AM a rabbi, but I'm also like another child to this family friend. They are so close to us and have been for so many years, that they ARE family. This wasn't a rabbinic visit, this was a personal visit.
We talked about many things - we laughed and cried together. We talked about the journey I was making across the country, and really in my life. The kind of courage that it takes, perhaps, to move forward and onward, even when we are uncertain of what lies ahead. We talked about where we'd been, what used to be, and what life might bring. I can't begin to describe to you how special it was. This will, in all likelihood, be the last time I see him. And I'm so thankful for what we got to share together, not only today, but throughout the last 25 years that we've known each other.
At one point in the conversation, this friend and I mused about our mutual love of a special poem, that I've only ever come across in the High Holiday Machzor (special prayerbook for the High Holidays) "Gates of Repentance" and it's beautiful applicability to our conversation today. And I was surprised at how much of this poem I had internalized, so much so that I was able to recite the majority of it for him, right there, in that hospital room. It brought tears to both of our eyes.
We didn't talk much about death, or illness, but we did talk a lot about journeys, lifetimes, family, friends, and our shared history together. And even though we never said it, outright to one another, we shared our last goodbye together as well.
"Life is a Journey"
Birth is a beginning
and death a destination
And life is a journey:
From childhood to maturity
and youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to desecration
and then perhaps to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or
from strength to weakness
and often back again;
From health to sickness
and we pray to health again.
From offense to forgiveness
from loneliness to love
from joy to gratitude
from pain to compassion
from grief to understanding
from fear to faith.
From defeat to defeat to defeat
until looking backwards or ahead
We see that victory lies not
at some high point along the way
but in having made the journey
step by step
a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
and death a destination
And life is a journey;
A sacred journey to life everlasting.
~~ Rabbi Alvin Fine ~~
Friday, July 9, 2010
I can't help but think about beginnings and endings this week. At sundown we begin Shabbat, the end of one week. Friday is also the beginning of the weekend - when we can stop, relax, rejoice, and take some time for ourselves (hopefully). I'm also thinking about so many colleagues (newly ordained or otherwise) who started their new jobs this week. My replacement began work this week as I am beginning to wind down and end my job. My life is cluttered - my house is full of boxes and everything is everywhere. I'm having to start transferring all neccessary things to a new part of the country and mentally reorganize my life to be in New York starting next month. Yes, lots of beginnings and lots of endings.
Truth be told, I've never been good at transitions. I work through them just fine, but I hate feeling as though things are unsettled. I hate the goodbyes, and I hate the sense that I have to leave somewhere, even if I am going off to turn my dreams into reality. But at times like this, I have to remember how neccessary some transitions are in life. In order to go forward, we must actually put our foot out and step forward - scary or uncertain as that step may be.
God said to Avram (Abraham) "Lech Lecha" - go forth. Even though Abraham did not know what this meant, or where this would take him, he went forth anyway. Abraham trusted in God, and trusted in himself to muster up the courage and put one foot in front of the other. So, too, have I tried to muster up that courage and go forth in my career and my life. But by going forth, it always means we must leave something behind as well.
This Shabbat, I'm trying not to focus too much on the difficulty of transitions, but on the notion of beginnings and endings. There is a sense of holiness in every new endeavor we begin and in every place that we leave. I have to really start thinking about the relationships I've created, the community I've contributed to, and the ways in which I've grown. I also have to remember that I have new and exciting adventures coming my way - who knows who/what might be right around the next corner, waiting for me?
Whether you are in the middle, at the end, or just starting, I wish you continued success on your own life's journey. And I hope that each of you finds holiness and peace where you are, at this very moment, on that journey.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Heading to the windy city (my home away from home) this weekend for the 4th, friends, family, and fun! I have the great honor of officiating at one of my childhood friend's wedding ceremony. I've known her since she was 1 month old!!!
I'm also going to get to see my family and a few friends that live and are visiting Chicago this weekend. Even though I'm moving in a few weeks and don't really have time to be out of town, I'm very excited about the festivities this weekend. All that "life" stuff can wait until later - now it's time to relax, rest, rejuvenate and have a great time with all those near and dear to me. Pics to follow soon...
Got any big plans for Shabbat?? The holiday weekend??
This rabbi wants to know!!
Whatever you do, be safe and have fun.