PREPENT DAY 8:
Elul 8 5775 – August 23 2015
Goodbyes are hard. But can be made easier with clarity, intent, grateful presence of heart and mind. During these days of Elul it’s a privilege and obligation to make sure we leave as few as our interactions with the people in our lives undone. Especially the ones more fragile.
On the 8th day of this Prepent journey I’m wrapping up a week long London visit, having escorted my mother for her walk up and down memory lane. She revisited the neighborhood where she was born, the graves of her parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins; walked in the park she played in as a child 80 years ago, and in a different park where she brought me when I was a baby, to play in my granny’s lap. We spent meaningful moments with relatives and with each other. But the main reason for the trip was for my mother to spend quality time with her older brother Jack, 92, a globe trotter, famed book collector and industry giant, now frail and home-bound. Come what may, it is wise to say goodbye. So often we are too scared to do this sacred tender work or simply do not get the chance.
This past year has been one of farewells in our family. My father died in December at the age of 88. My mother’s oldest sister Evelyn, 104, passed away a few months later.
So spending time with Jack, for her – and to an extent, for me, is about as much of closure as possible, with time for laughs, and songs, sighs and goodbye. A tender privilege, last legacies shared and recorded. Hopefully they both live on, for years to come. But just in case, the gradual advance in years requires attention. The writing is on the wall.
“What is your favorite prayer?” I asked him on Friday night, as the men assembled in the private prayer room he had installed in his house so many years ago. “Aleinu” he answered, with a half smile, “it’s near the end.”
“What are you most proud of?” his daughter asked him the next day. “Marrying your mother.” He replied. He loved his wife but had been a widower for the last 40 years. “Not the library?” we asked, surprised. “No.” he replied after a long silence. “Not as much.” My uncle’s book collection has been so important to him, with the most recent volume just released highlighting prized pieces: The Writing on the Wall: A Catalogue of Judaica Broadsides from the Valmadonna Trust Library.
But for him, at this point in life, it isn’t about that.
This reminded me of this quote I recently read:
“All real life is meeting, taught the philosopher Martin Buber. That’s what makes us truly human. I always thought, Buber wrote, that I want to die with a book in my hand. Now I know at the end of my life, that I want to die with another human hand in mine.” (Robert Levine, There is No Messiah and You are It)
Who knows what will happen when and how. The least that we can do, with this annual timeline/deadline looming, is leave as few as possible loose ends, honor our loved ones and elders, take time to visit or call and make each moment matter for the rest of this life. The Book of Life is not authored by us.
Who’s on your short list of closure?
Reach out: With tender, honest, simple kindness, with less fear of death and more love of every little precious bit of life.