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04/19/2022 01:03:28 PM


Our embrace of the past and our anxious awareness of the future

This Friday morning, we will conclude Passover with a festival service and Yizkor prayers. Memory is always associated with the holiday of Passover. Memory and death are part of a holiday in part because it is during holidays when we remember those no longer with us.
Malachy McCourt, the brother of the now more famous Frank, wrote in his own bestselling book, Monk Swimming, of a time he picked up an old man on the road during a hard rainfall.  When the man got out of the car he said, "Thank you, sir, for your kindness.  May you have a happy death."  McCourt thought about this strange blessing and then concluded that he liked it, for a happy death means you had a happy life.   In other words, to contemplate a happy death means that, when the inevitable comes, we will have been pleased with how we have acted, what we have accomplished, and whom we have loved.
There is a certain motivational speaker who says the following to those listening: Imagine yourself at your own funeral.  Imagine your family and friends sitting there as the service begins.  See four people get up to eulogize you.  First, there is a co-worker from your place of business.  This person talks about you in the world of work.  Were you honest?  Were you kind, even to those who were your subordinates?  What was your reputation in the business world?

The second speaker is a neighbor.  What kind of neighbor were you?  Were you friendly?  Could people count on you?

The third speaker is a member of your family.  Were you there for them?  Did you care?  Did you love them unconditionally?  Did you put as much energy into your family as you did into your business?
And finally, the fourth speaker is your clergy.  How would they sum up your life?  Did you live a life that would make God proud?  Did you fulfill your mission on earth?

Nothing focuses our minds better than considering our own obituaries and eulogies.  If we wrote down what we would like these to say, then we would have a personal mission statement for how we should live our lives

I recognize that at times living in the present can be difficult.  Perhaps we miss a loved one so much that the present seems empty.  Or maybe our fear of the future robs us of present contentment now.

To better live in the present is not to deny the fact that one day we will no longer have a present.  It simply is a way to let go of the things that never belong to us anyway: our ego's embrace of the past and our anxious awareness of the future.  

Sun, February 5 2023 14 Sh'vat 5783