Friday, November 26, 2004

Through the Valley of the Shadow

There is a blessing for everything. Remember the musical "Fiddler on the Roof"? This topic comes up and in order to prove the point, the Rabbi gives the proper blessing for the Tzar [May God bless and keep the Tzar...far away from us!].

I love that we have blessing for every action, every food, every thing that we encounter in life. Blessing God is how we become aware of the Divine Presence in our lives.

Well, there is a blessing when one enters a cemetary after not having been in one for 30 days. I was reminded of this when I attended the funeral of the father of one of my son's schoolmates. And reminded what an odd existence I lead for I was not eligible to recite that prayer, having been in a cemetary just a week before...and a week before that...and now I have been to the cemetary twice since then. [For the mathematically-challenged, that makes 5 cemetary visits in the month of November alone.]

Death is sad, no matter when or how it comes. Certainly, some circumstances are more tragic or more painful...but loss is loss. Our Tradition teaches that "the eye never has enough of seeing" (Ecc. 1:8). It does not matter how long we is not long enough. At one funeral this month, the widow cried out, "How could You be so cruel??? We didn't have enough time!" -- and her husband had been in his nineties.

This week, I had to explain to a room of 4 year olds why their friend "Yoni" was going to be very, very sad when he returned to school after the Shiva week was completed. As always, I was stunned by the depth of understanding children have. Not of the concept of death itself, for generally speaking, they are not yet able to truly grasp the finality of it. No. I was moved by their compassion and ability to relate to loss. When I asked the class what they might do to help "Yoni" feel better, they offered "make him cookies" and "give him lots of hugs!" One girl responded, "we should remind him. We should talk about his dad with him and remind he isn't aftraid of forgetting him." What previous loss has that young girl experienced? We adults often shy away from mentioning the name of the dead for fear of upsetting the surviving loved ones. In fact, as "Yoni's" classmate knew, mentioning the name is one way to reassure the survivors that the loved one won't be forgotten.

I am sad. Sad that "Yoni" and his sister have to grow up without their dad. Sad that a classroom full of children must confront the realities of life (and its twin) at such a young age. Sad that my son has asked me every day if I will not die until he is finished growing up.

And I am grateful. Grateful it is not my children in that position. That is so selfish, I know. Now that I am a parent, I thank God for each additional day He gives to me...for each day is yet one more I have with my babies. Grateful that I come from a Tradition that teaches us to value each day by seeking God's Eternal Presence through righteous behaviour and acts of lovingkindess.

Psalm 23 reminds us that we must continue through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. May God continue to be the Navigator as I emerge from the sadness of the past week and look forward, God-willing, to a week of peace.

1 comment:

PepGiraffe said...

That is so sad! (The dad dying, not the being grateful part.) That is one of the many reasons I am not suited to being a Rabbi. I couldn't even read this post without crying, forget about talking to a classroom of kids about this and sending them home with a bunch of nightmares about how they're are going to be orphans. I wouldn't do that last part on purpose, but I have a gift. I love that empathic little girl and feel sad for her as well because she probably goes through life feeling everyone's pain. And feeling everyone's joy probably doesn't make up for that.