This is a little bit of personal reflection. I am just back from attending the convention of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Jerusalem. We did some sessions on longevity and the impact of aging on congregations around the world. Israel was, well, Israel. Intense and very much alive. On the way home, I stopped for a few days in London. Many years ago (1969-70) I took a year off of HUC studies and took a congregation in London. It was a fantastic year and I learned more about being a rabbi that year than in all the years of classwork. The friends I made there I am still in touch with and, with every trip back there, connected with them. This trip to see them was bittersweet. Memory is funny, because we sometimes have images fixed in our minds of people and places of a certain time. Yet, when we return, reality sets in.
On Monday last, the children of my closest friend took me to a cemetery in the outer fringes of London so I could visit the grave of Lynn. She and her husband at the time, Stan, adopted me and became close friends. The children who I used to play with as little ones, now were my chaperones to the grave. Lynn died a year and a half ago of cancer and logistics prevented me from going to the funeral. So, we all stood at her grave on a beautiful 80 degree sunny day. I placed some small stones from the Temple mount on the grave and we said Kaddish. So many memories! And once again, the reality of time passing. Where has it gone? So fast, so fleeting. Had it really been 48 years since we had met?
The next day, I took the Tube to visit Stan. Lynn and Stan had been divorced for many years. Stan is house bound and dealing with a myriad of health related issues. I found his house in east London and we sat for a while just talking over tea. Again, so many memories. As I waited for the cab to take me back to the Tube station, he embraced me and said he did not know if he would ever see me again. We hugged. The cab came and it was time to go.
Time passing. Memories of what once was, but can never be again. Bittersweet!. A message? Who knows? Maybe it is the reality that once again the reality of our own mortality is always present–especially as we get older and treasured relationships change. Likewise, it is a reminder that it is these relationships that are really the currency of our life. They are to be valued and treasured for they are fragile and, try as we might, we cannot control them. Another message? Maybe one we all are slowly understanding. Time is this gift that is wrapped in our life. We cannot let it slip un-lived. Every day is that new gift. We need to celebrate it and take the memories of those we care for and make sure those memories find a secure and permanent place with out own soul.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.