In the summer of 1969, a very long time ago, I , along with several of my class mates from HUC, took a year off school. I spent the year as the rabbi of a congregation in London, England. The first people to ‘adopt” this young Yank, was a couple from my congregation. Lynn and Stan, along with their friends Len and Joyce, we were gradually educated as to the finer points of life; from how to brew a proper cup of tea to Tottenham Hostpur. Through years of back and forth travel, marriages, divorces and re-marriages, b’nai mitzvoth, etc, we maintained a strong–albeit long distance–friendship. Lynn died last December, a too young 78, from cancer. This past Sunday, her family gathered to dedicate the gravestone. They called me after the ceremony and forwarded a picture of the grave. It is too unreal, still.
Listening to Lynn’s daughter, a beautiful young woman who I watched grow up and who now has grown children of her own; I was struck again by the rapid passage of time. Her son sent a picture of the grave and I sat there looking at it unable to fully comprehend this reality. I had spoken with Lynn just a week or so before she died and, as was typical, she was as upbeat as was possible. Sitting over here, thousands of miles away, the un-real reality of another close friend dying was unnerving. Again, that question, “where has the time gone?”
It is true that true friendship transcends time and distance. We saw each other for the last time about 5 years ago. We would e-mail or call each other every once in a while. It was always as if we had just seen each other the day before. The is the test, perhaps, of what true friendship is like. Many of us have those relationships. We may be at a distance from friends, but, when we do touch base, there is no awkward pause, it is just like we never left. This is a blessing. Time and distance cannot corrode a true friendship. These bonds, yes, quite rare, are stronger than time and distance; and yes, even death. For some of us reading this, we know this to be true for we have seen close friends die and yet, we still have them close to our hearts and souls. Some of us even still talk to them. As Mitch Albom wrote in”Tuesday’s With Morrie”: “death ends a life, not a relationship”.
The day before the unveiling, I was in a Facebook chat with Lynn’s son and decided to just send him a short meditation from a “shiva” book that is used at a local congregation. It is a short few sentences that does capture what many feel and I thought it would help Lynn’s son as he prepared for the ceremony. I share it with you here:
“For the love that death cannot sever; for the friendship we shared along life’s path; for those gifts of heart and mind which have now become a precious heritage; for all these and more we are grateful. Now help us, O God, not to dwell on sorrow and pain, but to honor our beloved by the quality of our lives. Amen”
Rabbi RicharD F Address