This essay from Hospice Chaplain Laurie Kurs is an expansion of a comment she contributed on a recent post here on JewishSacredAging.com.
Somewhere between time flies and time stands still are the sublime moments of awareness that these moments might be the very last. And, it is in those sacred “last” moments that we find the “if only’s, shoulda’s, coulda’s, and woulda’s that being left undone, tear at the core of your kishkas. The “why didn’t I’s” tear right into your spirit as you succumb to the reality: there will be no more moments. The sickening feeling of all that was left undone. The pit of the stomach pain knowing you will never — in THIS life — accomplish, fulfill, finish, dreams.
With this very bleak and black cloud, clouding your thoughts as your body is about to shut down, one realizes they are leaving soon and then regret, anger and fear overtake the process.
There is a cure for this sad state.
It is, as another adage goes, “Don’t put off for tomorrow WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY.” While you have all your faculties and are physically able, make those apologies now, finish that project today, take your loved one out this day.
Empty that bucket list of “I will do” into “I AM DOING.” If you THINK it needs to be … do it!!
When one has made all their apologies, fulfilled all their commitments, told those they love that they love them, make those long overdue amends…(you know with whom)…fulfill your bucket list …THEN, and only then when there are only moments left, you can accept that with a smile in peace, as you will have a calm soul, and have fulfilled your “details”.
We must recognize that we have choices….A choice is to “go out” burdened and angry OR peacefully and calmly — knowing our neshama is at peace.
Everything we do is choice.
BEING alive means different things to different people. As most of us are aware, some individuals feel they have to be the class clown, the party animal and without the attention, they have little sense of “them.”
And there are those who believe right to the gut that they must excel —stand out — whether in sports or studies, or they wonder, “who am I?”
Some people describe themselves but what they “do,” as in “I am a …..” —fill in the blanks…lawyer, doctor, chemist, whatever.
And often adulation or appreciation dominates the chat.
Rarely, if ever, does anyone say, “I am a good person.”
And yet, Judaism offers opinions on this very issue. We have “a guta neshama,” the kind of soul who likes to be of help.
There is the Mitzvah Man, eager to do whatever and hoping for the possibility of racking up “heavenly” points. Not to forget the righteous soul also known as a “tzaddik.” There are eternal students, known as learners. Etc., etc.
When we act and speak in ways that are truthful and respectful and we conduct ourselves as would bring joy to a mothers face, we are honoring Hashem — Kiddush Hashem — The sanctification of G‑d’s Name.
If we choose to act and speak in ways that diminish our character — Chillul Hashem — The desecration of G‑d’s Name.
Our whole lives here on earth are a series of choices: Shall I be honest? Shall I be known for being loud and boisterous? Did I choose to empty my bucket list? Did I choose to leave things unfinished? Did I fail to tell those that I love that I love them? Shall I be known for having a big heart and helping others? Did I choose to be a schnorer?
When we are faced with our last seconds in THIS life, the choices we made throughout our lives will determine what “baggage” we bring to the NEXT life. How we choose to “go out” is self-evident, in peace or in turmoil.
Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs is a Life Member of Hadassah and spent her youth in Brooklyn, volunteering for such organizations as Junior Hadassah, the Civil Air Patrol, BBYO, and Young Judea. As an adult, she became a member of Hadassah, BBW (B’nai Brith Women), Women’s American ORT (Organization for Educational Resources and Technological Training) and The National Council of Jewish Women. She has a Masters in rehabilitation of the handicapped. She taught for 25 years and upon retirement became a hospice chaplain. Rabbi/Chaplain Dinerstein-Kurs is a member of NAJC, Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains. She and Steve, her husband of 53 years have two children, ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren!