Yesterday, on the eighth day of Elul, I received a call from one of the people from Spring Lake Village who I came to know during my Chaplaincy placement and through the Welcoming Shabbat program I do each month (sort of). Her husband, a vibrant, alive character, had been diagnosed with terminal lymphoma a couple of months ago, and he died over the weekend. Although her children arranged the funeral with their congregational rabbi, she asked if I could be there to say a few words as well. I felt blessed that I had an unscheduled day and so I could go at the last minute. The rabbi did a lovely job, given that he’d never met Phil, and the kids described exactly the man I had gotten to know: a joker, a joyful man who took pride in the responsibility of caring for his family.
The rabbi made yet another allusion to the beauty of the wedding ceremony: he interprets the third of the sheva berakhot (seven blessings) to talk about each person (or couple) building a foundation for eternity — and that foundation is the children. While I don’t ascribe to the idea that every marriage is supposed to produce children, in this man’s case, his children, grandchildren and great children manifestly are his eternity. When the youngest great-grandchild entered the room of the shiva minyan, she lifted the energy in the room to a more joyful place, the place that he himself would have brought only a few weeks ago. Sowing that sense of joy into one’s family, cultivating it, nurturing it and harvesting it–that is a life that we can all celebrate. His memory is surely a blessing, and may his life be bound up in eternal peace.