Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Never Thought…

How many times when I went to visit mourners have I heard the line: “I never thought he was going to die.” Or perhaps, its twin sister statement: “He wasn’t the type of person to die.” Many many times. And that is how I feel about my father.
Now who are we kidding? Do we think that any one of us will escape death? Intellectually perhaps not, but emotionally, contemplating death is something we would rather ignore and/or postpone. So much that by now I have probably lost half of my readers….
But when it comes to parents, I think there is something else in play. Our sages tell us that we should honor and fear our parents (which is a commandment of the Torah), not only as a mitzvah (commandment), but because if we do not honor them, if we can not be grateful for the life our parents gave us, we are unlikely to be grateful to G-d. In a way, our parents are our image of G-d. Indeed, usually a young child will “worship” his parents: they can do no wrong. As a father said to his friend: If you want to feel what worship is, have a son.
Now eventually we grow up, and unfortunately learn that our parents are human, and hopefully some where along the way, get a more sophisticated view of the Omnipresent. But somehow it seems that some of that uniqueness of our parents and their love for us, leads to our difficulty in accepting the reality that they are not here forever.
* * * * * * * * *
I would like to add a word of advice to anyone who has parents who live far from them. I know of many cases where sons and daughters visit their parent when the parent is on their deathbed. Now there is nothing bad about that. But don’t wait for that. And if you have money to only visit rarely, go when your parents are well enough to enjoy your visit.
My Dad battled cancer three times over the last several years. When he got sick the third time, I resolved to go see him, despite the cost, as soon as I could. And even though he appeared to get better after a while, I went a year and a half ago to visit. I decided that I wanted to see him while we could enjoy each other’s company. We did a bit of walking together. He showed me a few of his favorite movies. We looked at family picture albums together. I am forever grateful that I did so. It was good for him, and healing for me.

If I had waited for him to get “really sick”, I would not have seen him at all.

My father with Ricki a year and a half ago.


Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

smart choice to not wait for "the last minute"

rutimizrachi said...

What a handsome fellow! He appears to have been full of love of life, in his day.

I think the weirdest sensation, after losing my dear Mama, a"h, was like a kind of emotional vertigo. How could the world keep revolving, when one of the cornerstones of existence no longer was? A parent was "always there," after all, since "before time began." At least before our time. It is quite unsettling to feel the world thus altered. The feeling abated, with time; yet there are still days when I look at her photograph, and feel actual awe as I realize that the world still continues without her.

Batya said...

Beautiful post. I feel priviledged that it will be on "my" Havel Havelim next week, G-d willing.

A Soldier's Mother said...

I'm sorry for your loss - but I'm so glad you had the opportunity to have that special time with your father. I know of many people who live with regret for waiting and not going. My husband's parents both got sick almost immediately after we made aliyah - in the year before they both died - my husband traveled to the States three times and we made one family trip with the children so that they would see their grandparents and most importantly, their grandparents would see them. The last time we were there, I just knew I would never see them again. It was agonizing leaving them...but the one comfort we had was that our children remember them healthy and whole and not as they were the last time my husband went back alone.