thoughts after losing my mother
Many of you know that I lost my Mother a few weeks ago. During this time of preparation for the New Year, a time of renewal, my thoughts turn to the ways in which death is always interwoven, as part of the unfolding story of Life.
No matter how rational, how secular, how scientific we are death brings us face to face with the profound mystery of our own mortality.
How is it that the one we loved, who gave birth to us, can suddenly no longer exist in this world of space and time?
Time has become utterly strange to me-
a day feels like an hour, a week feels like a day.
How do I face the years to come without the One who introduced time to me?
Memory is what I have- connecting me to the past
But memory lives outside of space and time
it is an experience we enter into inside the heart and mind
a place of mystery
where those we have loved and lost continue to exist
Like a sacred shrine that holds the space for the mystery of the Divine
to exist on this plane, memory is that inner shrine
the Holy of Holies
that connects this world with the Great Mystery beyond.
The Baal Shem Tov once said "redemption itself lies in remembering."
I have been forced to confront, to experience the great mystery that is life and death- that which we may understand intellectually, but which we mostly avoid in our day to day living.
But Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur- these "Days of Awe" are right around the corner, calling us back to this mystery through our liturgy; through the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, that focuses on the question of who will live and who will die in the coming year; in the focus on teshuva- return, and repentance and in the very name of the day-Yom Hazikaron- the Day of Remembrance.
We are asked to remember- to turn back
away from the distractions of daily life,
to consider that life is fleeting.
Time is moving ever faster,
so let us turn toward what is most essential
and what is that?
If I ask you what is the most important element in your life, undoubtedly you would all say something about an essential relationship with another human being or several people. Our relationships- the bonds of love that tie us together while we inhabit this world- are the emotional currency that nourish us and make life worth something. When my mother died, my family and friends ran to me. They did not say, I have a business meeting, I cannot come now. Nothing was more important, and we all embraced in the exquisite recognition of loved shared and love lost.
Ultimately- Who does not seek love? Who does not want to be loved? Love is the river that connects us in the most fundamental way.
In the turning of a new year, our tradition demands from us that we remember how quickly time passes, and therefore we must seize every moment to make peace with one another, to seek forgiveness, to repair, re-member what has become broken or frayed. We do not know what day will be our last, or what day will be the last for all those we know. Life turns in a breath.
Ultimately, life and death are one interpenetrating mystery. It is unreasonable to expect that we can understand everything. There comes a time when we must embrace Mystery. We are always in relationship with Mystery whether we know it or not. But to embrace it, is to make a kind of liberating choice. I accept that I cannot understand this, that I may never understand this as anything but a mystery.
As we move now toward the New year- I beseech all of us- to consider what is most essential- to open our hearts just a little bit wider- to remember how precious each day is- a gift to use for loving better, for building bridges, and for making peace.
With blessings and in deep prayer for peace,