Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Within the last week, my parents' close friend and co-worker was diagnosed with an inoperable form of pancreatic cancer that may have already metastasized. He was feeling fine last month, with the exclusion of some back pain that he described as nothing worse than usual. Then he began having leg pains, which turned out to be blood clots - one symptom of pancreatic cancer. After the prerequisite tests, scans, and a biopsy, his diagnosis was confirmed.

The doctor, with a grim look on his face, turned to my parents' friend and told him that they will go ahead with chemotherapy, but he should get his affairs in order.

His son was due to be married in November, but odds are he won't survive until then, and thus plans are probably in the works to move the date up to ensure that he will be strong enough to attend (or be alive to attend at all).

This man is only a year older than my mother, and this is the first person among their circle of friends to who will succumb to an age-related illness (this excludes another friend who died of a sudden heart attack 10 years ago). Both my mother and father are quite dismayed with the depressing news. Measures need to be taken to train another employee to replace this fellow, but nothing concrete has been organized, but that's the least of their concerns at the present time.

Scary, isn't it?

Thank G-d, both my parents are relatively healthy. But this current crisis makes me wonder what it will be like (after 120 years G-d willing) when they are no longer around. It also sends my mind off worrying about what might happen to anyone I know - myself included.

Pirkei Avos 2:15 quotes Rabbi Eliezer as saying that everyone should do teshuva (repent) one day before they die. Avos d'Rebbe Nosson expands on this, and Rabbi Eliezer is asked how can one know what day he'll die, to which he replies that we should do teshuva every day, since it may, indeed be our last.

Morbid stuff, right?

But how much do any of us really think about this? Particularly us younger folk, with our misperceptions regarding our own mortality; nothing can stop us, whenever we get sick we'll get better, I'll stay young and never grow old and worn out, etc. etc.

Certainly it does not do any of us good to constantly have this on our minds, which would probably lead many to thoughts of depression. However, reflecting on these facts of how life works and how fragile, precious, beautiful, and how ill-appreciated each of our days are, can keep a person properly humble and thankful for every waking moment. We can use these thoughts to make what we do in life matter, to better help others - and ourselves - and leave a lasting, positive impact on the world around us.

As Tehillim 103:15-16 says, man is like a blade of grass - one moment we're here and flourishing, flowering - and the next a strong wind can come and pluck us up and away, as though we were never there.

It would behoove us all to take some time to think about these things, to better reorient ourselves in whatever way(s) necessary, to improve our conduct, both between us and HaShem and between us and our fellow man.

Please daven for the refuah shelayma of Shmuel ben Rochel. 

Thank you.


  1. Very scary. Nowadays so many of my friends have aunts and uncles who are critically ill or being niftar... it's not just grandparents anymore. So far I've dated two boys whose fathers were niftar within the year that I dated them, and at the top of my head I can think of two other weddings I've attended where the chosson/kallah walked down with a parent missing. It is so difficult to watch and definitely triggers cheshbon hanefesh. May Shmuel ben Rochel be zoche to dance at his sons wedding and have a refuah shelaimah... and may H' watch over all of us.

    1. I know of several friends who married guys/girls who lost a parent or whose mother/father-in-law were deathly ill when they got married. Watching them make that walk down the aisle with a substitute for their deceased parent is very hard to watch. Thank you for your tefillos!

  2. One more name to the list. Im sorry about this, it's tragic. Yet I dont know how much adding a name to a list really helps :(

    ps: have you been getting lots of visitors on your blog because of the book 50 shades of grey that everyone is fussing about??

    1. Sometimes I feel that way too - so many people to daven for, who's names I tend to just rush through during davening - or I become so overwhelmed with the ginormous local tehillim list that I don't bother checking their near-daily updates of added names...

      Regarding the novel (funny how they spelled grey with an E like I do) - I did when it was big news a few months ago, but not so much now... I wouldn't want to be associated with that pritzus anyway. It would be interesting to know if anyone stumbled upon the blog and somehow found meaning in something they read here.

    2. I admire those who thoroughly go through the list. unfortunately i've given up a while ago :(
      It's still news now, thats all they talk about on the radio. I think it would take someone who is completely taken by the stupidity of the book to actually turn around after stumbling upon your blog. Hey, it's possible!!

  3. My father was literally here today, gone tomorrow.
    Of course we shouldn't think of morbid thoughts on a constant basis, but those of us who have gone through the trauma of losing a parent can honestly say that there are two types of people: those who have experienced loss and those who haven't. No, I don't walk around inspired, but I do see life waaaay differently than before the sudden loss.There are thoughts that most young 20 year olds like me have likely never been through. To most people who visit the cemetery, they are visiting old grandparents who they may have never met. To me, I'm visiting the person who was always there for me in life. Chaim and Maves are very real to me.
    When I hear of a friend casually mentioning that she's going to visit her parents, I think to myself that it is such a natural thing, yet at the same time to me it is a foreign thing.
    I too, thought nothing would ever happen to me, but apparently, Hashem has other plans!

    1. I'm sorry for you loss - whatever small consolation words can bring.

      I don't think I can even imagine how hard it must be to lose a parent at such a young age - or even younger for some people I know. It is true that HaShem has plans that only He knows and we may never truly understand until it's our turn to go, but that doesn't make it any easier to bear the powerful and often overwhelming emotions going with such a void in our lives.

      It goes back to Koheles' big dilemma of wanting to know and understand all as G-d does, but realizing such things are impossible, it is our duty to enjoy what we have while we have it - because everything we do have is a gift from G-d.

      I just wish there was somehow a way to prevent the whole hindsight being 20/20 and learn how to properly recognize and fully appreciate what I have before I lose something or someone... which is quite hard, of course.

      I remember when my paternal grandfather was nifter a few months before my bar mitzvah. I spent every night crying my eyes out that he should be able to make it to celebrate with me and get an aliyah. It was utterly crushing when my mother picked me up from school early and told me the news...

      At any rate, we should all only have good news to share.

  4. If there's one thing I tell people it's that every moment you have is precious and utterly forgetable. When things are going well we take it for granted when we should be celebrating it instead.
    A sudden heart attack or stroke and suddenly life changes and if you didn't appreciate the time you had then how can you start now?
    Take a moment, sit back and thank God for everything you have, really take a moment to appreciate His goodness with you and make it a goal to do that after davening each day.


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