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Posts Tagged ‘lifecycle’

Lifecycle Reflections

For so many months I’ve been asking myself, “What derekh (path/direction) do I want to follow?  The answer is still unclear, but experiences are continuing to imbue me with insight on a regular bases.

Today was no exception.

This morning, I went to a workshop at my local Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning.  While there, I seemed to be on a different plain than my colleagues.  Thankfully they are kind individuals that didn’t put me out to pasture; I am absolutely lucky to work with other educators who really honor each other wherever they stand.

Our workshop started with a d’var torah (discussion on Torah) in which we discussed this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Mikkets.  In the parsha, Yaakov turns to his sons and says, “Why do you keep looking at one another?” (This is in reference to the reality that Yaakov and his sons have no food in Canaan, but there is plenty of food in the neighboring Egypt. Our forefather Yaakov appears to be asking his sons why they are just standing there.)  The question is one I often ponder when there is work to do and no one steps forward for whatever reason they have.

So when a call came in a few hours later from a local Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) asking if I would help with a tahara (ritual washing of a body before the funeral), I had to ask myself if I would just stand around and do nothing or step up to the plate.  I had a few excuses why I couldn’t do the tahara.

  • My family was looking forward to spending the 7th night of Chanukah together.  This Chanukah had not been as family oriented as it usually is.
  • My hand was hurting terribly and I needed to refrain from using it for the evening.
  • Did I say it was really cold outside and I wanted to stay curled up inside for the night?

But the call made me jump into action and the excuses weren’t acceptable.  Some beautiful soul called me because she needed me to help her congregation out.  I was her twentieth call.  Once I realized that I was the twentieth call, I knew what I had to do; none of my challenges for the evening were voiced.

After nearly three years of taking care of Aryeh, my now 16-year-old son who was (and is no longer) seriously ill, I realized it was time for me to leave the cocoon.  Now that my son is stronger, it is my job to respond when I am being called into action.

Tonight’s tahara was for a real tzadekes, righteous woman; she must have been a gem of a person.  As I walked into the funeral home, I met two women that loved this woman tremendously.  With time to spare before the tahara was to begin, both women shared memories of their dear friend.  It isn’t often that family or friends can share a story with you about their loved one moments before a tahara is performed.  After hearing a few stories, I felt so honored to be doing this particular tahara. The women seemed to be gems themselves; they were warm and lovely people who seemed to view the departed as a mentor.

One of the two women actually performed the tahara with me.  She was gentle and loving with her friend’s body.  She was strong in spite of her sadness.  I hope and pray that I am always so kind and loving when I perform a tahara; I also hope that next time I look for ways to be more available when someone needs me.

As a progressive Jew, the calls don’t come in from my own communities; they come in from a more traditional community nearby.  The good news is that I have been trained to do taharas and I love being able to give in that way.  I keep wondering if there is more that I can do to help those dealing with the death and dying process.  Maybe.  This will be one of the things that I will continue to ponder for the time being.

After the tahara, I found myself chanting Nachamu Nachamu Ami (Comfort, Comfort my people) again and again.  I wanted to reach out and comfort those in mourning; I wanted to create a sacred space for them to move through their grief.  I felt, as I always do, that I was exactly where I needed to be when I was available to do the tahara and I was exactly where I needed to be when I was chanting with the family/friends of the departed in my heart and on my mind.

With light and blessings,

Chava

PS – My soul friend/sister posted a beautiful blog on her own tahara reflections.  Please take a moment to read it!  http://theitinerantrabbit.blogspot.com/

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