How Do You Begin To Understand?

The e-mail came in at 7am. I knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time. But, like two previous phone calls, when it comes, it shocks. The finality of it! My closest friend from a year I spent at a London congregation had died. Pancreatic cancer took her. We had spoken 3 weeks prior for her birthday, and she told me she had decided to forego further treatment, but was confident that she had more time; even made plans for trip in 2016. Not to be! Lyn was another of these people who brought life and love to the world. She had her share of “tsouris” in life, overcame it with a disposition I admired and always emerged for the better…until this!
I do not understand all of this, I admit it. This is the third close friend of mine to have died within the last 5 years. You may think that as a rabbi, I may have a better understanding of the “why” of this. But, I admit, I do not. Three people, Jake, Steve and Lyn, all sweet souls who brought life and meaning to the world and to the people they encountered. Taken all too soon.
I know there are a lot of cliche, Hallmark card responses. Many of you have heard them.They leave me empty. With each of these, the reality of my own mortality draws closer. Don’t like that either!!
There is great frustration being thousands of miles away. We are left with memories. I trust, and have faith, that I shall be able to understand this, at some time. Right now, however, there is this sense of sadness. These three people, now gone physically, now find their place in the world of the soul and spirit. You carry these people with you, as many of you know. They are aways there, somewhere in our own soul. But still, that “why” lingers.
Rabbi Richard F Address


  1. Saying goodbye to those we love is — I believe — the most difficult thing we do in life. Every loss takes a little bit of our soul and leaves us with only memories as emotional sustenance. It never gets easier. For myself, I do not fear death — I fear any pain and expense that is a result of the process. I extend a hand to you as one to another who has lost profoundly….

  2. It’s true – I too have lost many friends and family that have been taken far too soon. Even though I am never at a loss for words , at times like this I never know what to say. Rabbi Telushkin’s book on Jewish Literacy always seems to point me in the right direction, but words to family members – like “our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time” leave me cold. In fact – they me nothing to me – especially when uttered by the POTUS – when disaster strikes somewhere in the world. I find that I continue to have many unanswered questions in life and wonder if finding answers by just living longer is a reality to hang on to. Sounds like you and I – probably many others – face similar life challenges with few places to turn for answers. G-d must have had something in mind – when he created the BLOG. Have a happy and healthy secular New Year.
    Best Regards,
    Steve Kalstein
    Bigfork, MT

  3. The loss of friends of long standing is a sharp and cruel reminder of our own mortality. Thinking of the blessedness and sacredness of the relationship helps. Focus on the privilege of the relationship my rabbi; friend; allow it to wash over you and strengthen you.
    I am sorry for your loss. Jackie Herzlinger

  4. Allow the privilege and sacredness of the relationship to wash over and comfort you. I am sorry for your loss. Jackie Herzlinger

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