Friday, August 30, 2013

A Sad End and a New Beginning: A #BlogElul Post

Earlier this week, a good friend's mother reached the end of her life.  It was more than unexpected -- tragically sudden, in fact -- made all the more so because my friend is to be married in October.

Ever since, the Unetanah Tokef has been echoing in my head.

This version from the machzor:

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning,
Who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low,
Who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.
And this one by Leonard Cohen:
And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?
But more than just pondering the words of the liturgy, the circumstances have prompted me to tell people in my life how very much I appreciate their presence and their friendship.
To C, who offered to help plan a gathering when our friend returns to New York, I wrote this:  "Life turns on a dime...and so thanks for your offer and for being my friend."

To E, who was at the out-of-town funeral because he always steps up to the plate for his friends, I said: "And with this sad reminder that life turns on a dime, I want to tell  you how much your friendship means to me.  Travel safely."

To S, who sometimes drives me nuts (and knows when he's doing it!), I added this postscript at the end of an email:  "I was reminded this week that life truly turns on a dime and so I just want to say that I appreciate having you as my friend.  You're a good egg."
And to V, who called yesterday during a work-from-home day, I reiterated the message:  I value you as a friend and a colleague, and I'm glad to have you as part of my life."
And so it is that from this sad ending comes a new beginning, the focus of which is not only feeling gratitude and appreciation, but also telling of the gratitude and appreciation.  In the new year, may we be blessed with good friends...and may we tell them just how blessed they make us.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima,this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.