One of my favorite Sinatra LPs (remember them?) is “September of My Years”. The title track speaks to the realization, common now for Boomers, that one day we are in summer, and the next day we “turn around and it is Fall.” The lyric asks, whatever happened to the springs and winters of a lifetime? This song lyric jumped into my head as I tried (not well) to process receiving one of “those” calls very recently. It was a call telling me that another very close friend, a friend for over 5 decades, had died suddenly.
In a flash, so many memories sped through my mind’s eye. It also reminded me, in cold hard stark fashion, of the randomness of our existence, a reality that grows more real as we get older. Maybe one of the great challenges in life as we age, is how we choose to deal with these random acts of life. How do we, you and I, choose to move on living? Some people never do. I imagine that you may know someone like that. Yet, life moves forward, as if unaware or unconcerned with our own circumstances.
I often, in talks on this, reflect back on Deuteronomy 30 and the passage which asks us to choose life. A key to that passage is the concept that we have the power to choose. Indeed, this is one of the great gifts of Judaism, we get to choose how we deal with what life hands us, knowing that sometimes the choices are not between blessing for curse, or good and bad, but gradations of each. Yet, the choice is ours to make, and even, in some circumstances, making no choice is a choice.
These choices that we make in lighting these random acts of life need not be made instantly. Indeed, that may be the worst time to make these choices. Time needs to take over in light ion sudden changes. Our souls need to adapt to new realities and to rush to make judgements or choices may be ill-advised. This is especially true in grief related situations.
The randomness of life is a true test of our humanity and our own values. It is not easy and the difficulty in dealing with this is heightened as we get older and those circles of relationships begin to get smaller. Loss can be a great equalizer and a great challenge.
Each of us has a story or two or more that relates to this aspect of choosing how to react to random acts of life. I hope I and you can, as the text ask, make choices that bring honor and sanctity to life and, if relevant, to the memory of a life well lived.
Rabbi Richard F Address