Some of what I’ve seen this week:
A four month old baby nestling in the lap of his 90 year old great-grandmother. His head fit perfectly into the crook of her right arm. It was a celebration of his naming and conversion (he had been to the mikveh earlier in the day), and also of her special birthday. The entire family was gathered around. The children, now in their late sixties, the grandchildren creeping close to their forties, the great-grandchildren, ranging from 10 or so all the way down to this newest addition. His eyes were bright and wide as he took in his surroundings, his cousins, the generations of his family. She radiated joy, even tough life was not easy, even though she was mostly wheelchair bound, even though …
But what is a day like that, a moment like that, a family like that, worth? Maybe the answer is this: everything.
A seventy year old man got up to eulogize his mother. She died at 94, after a long, good, and full life. She had seen the birth of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, had been blessed with good health well into her 90s, had lived with a sense of joy and gratitude. Truly a good life, a life to celebrate.
He spoke simply and clearly, related a story or two, talked about characteristics and qualities, laughed a bit. And then cried. Even when you are 70 and your mother is 94, even when the life was good and long, even when there is so much to be grateful for, a loss is a loss, and your mother is your mother, and the one who brought you into the world is no longer there for you, as she always was. The grief is real, and the pain is deep, and the heart is torn and needs time to mend and heal and feel grateful again.
A man in his 80s has been fighting an insidious disease for a long time. I visit him every few months, to check in, to catch up, maybe to lighten his spirit just a bit.
His independence is slowly but surely eroding. From living alone to living in a supported living environment, from being able to walk with a walker to riding in a motorized wheelchair, to now needing to be pushed everywhere. His mind is sharp, he watches it happen, bit by bit, day by day.
He fights with great strength of spirit and even greater dignity. He smiles and jokes, he goes about his day in the best way he can, he gets up each morning, gets dressed, mindless tasks for us, monumental tasks for him.
We chat about the stock market (oy!), the Ravens (he is a fan and anticipating this weekend’s game), and most of all about his family. He plans for the future, thinks about how he can improve his life, and finds within himself the grit and determination to do so.
The morning blessings we recite each day remind us to be grateful for the ability to stand, to move, to stretch, to dress, to rise from bed, to welcome the morning’s first light.
Life, too, can remind us of how grateful we should be for each and every day.