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Posts Tagged ‘families’

Three Deaths in Two Weeks

The gift is often the challenge.

Professionally, I have always worked within community.  For the most part, I have been blessed to work in the synagogue world.  Within that role, I have had the opportunity to connect deeply with many people from staff to congregants and their families too.  My students, their parents, my teachers, and their families have always become a part of my life.  And now is no different; I work the aged, most if not all are in the last years of their life.  My guess is that regardless of where I work or where I choose to be, I will always build relationships with those that surround me.

People are born; people die.  And in the middle of it all, people live.   They have experiences that fill their lives – including gifts and challenges.

Life is full of cycles

Life is full of cycles.

Over the last two weeks, I have been touched by the strength and integrity of the living and the pain and/or resolve of death.  And in the middle of it all, I have been touched by those that have lived and those that have died.

Three Deaths in Two Weeks

Loving people is what I do; no one is a stranger for long.  All are welcomed into my life including my home.  And within each connection, I try to give fully and be as present as I can be.  Sometimes people are part of my life for moments, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, and sometimes much longer.  And for that moment that I am blessed to be in a relationship, whether a close friend or for a momentary exchange of words, I treasure the moments however large or small.

Within my work, I build relationships.  And within each relationship, I care deeply.  Whether I connect with people daily, once a week, or only on the holidays, they impact my life and I pray that I impact their lives for good.  Often I do, sometimes I don’t.    The bottom-line is that I hope and pray that most of my connections are full of light and positive energy.  When people go through hard times, I struggle with them – it is simply what I do.  And when they live fully, I celebrate with them – that is also what I do.

Three Deaths in Two Weeks

So far in two weeks, I have gone to one funeral, one shiva minyan (memorial service), and another funeral on Sunday.  I also needed to help transition a client, who is now a friend, to a 24-hour care facility.  She is having a rough transition; her husband is profoundly sad too.  Life keeps moving forward.

Today, I saw a baby in a sling and a toddler eating dinner with his parents and puppy.  I also had a few hours talking and hanging out with my 17 year old son.  Life keeps moving forward.

Life-cycles happen.  I am learning to say good-bye with more regularity than I wish, I am also learning to take note of the life that surrounds me.  The baby, the toddler, the aging, and everyone in between.  I am also noticing the birds and the saguaro cacti; I am watching pomegranates thrive on a tree and flowers open and close on the cacti.  And each evening I look up at the sky and I take note of the moon and her cycle.  I am also waiting and hoping the sky opens up and the rain comes storming into my beautiful desert.

Life. Death. Everything in between.

May I treasure what is and continue to build relationships with the living.  And when people die, may I remember them and honor them by continuing to build connections with the living.

Three Deaths in Two Weeks

People matter and each of these three souls impacted my life for good.

l’Shalom – May their souls go towards peace.

 

 

 

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Middah (character trait) focus: Loving My Teens & All My Students For Who They Are

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Over the years I have been transformed by the young people that have touched my life; each and every one of them added depth to my life.  Somehow they trusted me and as their trust grew so did my ability to connect with them.  What I love about all of the children and teens that I have known over the years is that as long as I was willing to listen, I could build relationships with them.  I am so humbled by the different connections I have experienced.

Back in 2002, when I started working at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, I had no idea how to work with preteen girls.  But I didn’t actually realize that I didn’t have the skills, I faked it and somehow with each success I grew.  I loved the girls that were to become my Rosh Hodesh Girls (a group that met during the first days of the new moon each month); my life was better because of the work I did with them for several years.  The work transformed me and made me more aware of what it means to be a teacher, a mentor, woman, and a friend.  I wish I could thank each and every one of the young women today, but I have lost contact over the years.  Sigh.

Why am I reflecting back to my Rosh Hodesh Girls now?

Loved my time with Lucy Heller, Karen Judin, Rachel Rheingold - shown with Chava Gal-Or (from left to right)

Loved my time with Lucy Heller, Karen Judin, and Rachel Rheingold – shown with Chava Gal-Or (from left to right)

Today, three amazing young women took me to lunch.  Two years ago, I met them when I began working at Temple Emanu-El in Tucson.  Two of them taught Israeli dance and one was a madricha, (a teaching assistant); all three of them were giving and wise with their students and their friends too.  Within a very short time of meeting these three teens, I grew to like them very much; they became people that I now consider to be friends.  While I have always treasured the relationships I have built with my students, it was my relationship with the now college students from Adat Shalom that opened me up to really building meaningful relationships with those that were once simply my students.

One of the things I treasured most about my time with the Temple Emanu-El teens today was when they told me how I impacted them.  What I know now is that I touched their lives because I respected them as individuals and as teens; I listened to them and appreciated whatever they brought to the table; I trusted them to be leaders.  The bottom-line is that I do not believe in coercive leadership; I believe in building partnerships.

So often I work with rabbis, teachers, and parents that feel the need to tell our teens and all of our children not only how to walk in the world. but how to use their minds.  I don’t feel this way.  I want to open a door or a window.  I want to share the tools I treasure and the knowledge that has guided me throughout life; I want to give those I work with the room to play and to experience Judaism in a way that is comfortable for them.  My goal is always to hear both what those I work with are saying and what they are not yet saying; I want all the children, teens, and adults that I work to be comfortable with me and the gifts I have to offer.  My door is open.

Today I realized that all three teens were not just my co-workers, but my friends.  May they always remember that my door will be open to them.  I have grown to love them not simply as I love all my students and families; I love them as the beautiful souls that they are; I love them as my friends.

I will always be grateful to the Adat Shalom girls and the families that trusted me so many years ago.  Without them, I would not be the person I am.

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Over the course of the last several days, I have experienced many hours without a voice.  While it appeared to be challenging for others who had to communicate with me, I ultimately found peace in my own silence.  I loved having the time to sit quietly with my thoughts and to sometimes just be present without thinking at all.  I also loved quietly watching what was going on around me without having to connect to the conversations.  In the last few days I grew to love the silence and wish I could find more ways to put silence in my life.

no-talking1

In my silence, I have learned or reinforced many lessons that I already knew.

  1. Silence allows me the time to create a container for my own thoughts.  Sometimes the chatter that I engage in takes away my ability to be present and to trust my own thoughts and desires. The silence has given me the space to allow what is in my heart to resonate more fully within me.
  2. As a Youth Education Director, my voice is often used as a tool to lead people, to tell stories, to connect with my students, their families, and my teachers.  Losing my voice forced me to trust others to lead in ways that I couldn’t lead.  And guess what, while no one will ever be me, those that stepped up to the plate were awesome in their own right.
  3. Writing jazzes my soul! Now in all honesty, I have not felt well enough to write for a bit, but it helps to know that in theory I always have writing.  Laryngitis can never silence me!
  4. Words are not needed to convey thoughts.  Body language, facial expressions, and silence can be part of an entire conversation.
  5. My sons are awesome at reminding me to slow down or to stop entirely.  They have stepped up to the plate in many ways to make certain that I push myself less. Those that know me well know that I always push myself.
  6. Vulnerability is a reality of life.  Sometime illness takes away our ability to function; it also makes me realize how we sometimes need to rely on others.  I haven’t asked for too much help, but when I did, I felt supported.  Still acknowledging my own vulnerability has been painful.  It is what it is.

For me, losing my voice has essentially forced me to find my footing. Over the past few months, I have been going at a breakneck speed and trying to navigate many thoughts, emotions, and realities.  The last couple months have been especially tough in different ways.  I have always done what I needed to do, but at times I have been overwhelmed.

Laryngitis felt like a metaphor for some recent challenges.  Since moving to a totally new city, I have sometimes felt like my voice didn’t matter.  In part that was due to moving to Tucson where I am not quite sure how to navigate my politics nor do I have the time I want to do that which I love.  I am also working in a new community, this means that I feel compelled to listen and observe during the first year; perspective comes from seeing what has been done before making changes.  Moving also means that I have been so busy that I don’t have enough time to really connect with those that I have always been able to speak freely; I am missing what I have lost for the time being. And finally, I have two sons that have grown more independent and don’t always feel compelled to hear my thoughts.  None of these challenges are everlasting; they are present realities which will absolutely evolve over time.

With each and every gift, there are challenges.  Losing my voice has given me time to reflect and to make some decisions for how I will navigate my life a little differently.  Perspective has come from the silence.  Instead of me just speaking the words that come to me, I have had the opportunity to stop and take the opportunity to reflect before acting too quickly.  Much can be learned in the space between the words (spoken or written).

My hope is that I will create a little more silence in my life as I continue to navigate what life has to offer.

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