Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Book of Life/The Book of Death

It's September, and even along the Texas Gulf Coast, we can feel just the tiniest hint of fall, a faint cool breeze in the morning when you get the newspaper, the sound of The Eyes of Texas and the color of burnt orange in the stands at UT football games, school buses rumbling by with the morning traffic. When the year turns, it's a time for reflection.

If you're Jewish, these are the Days of Awe, the time from the Jewish New Year until the end of the Day of Atonement. Tradition has it that during this time each and every soul passes before God and he inscribes it in one of two books: the Book of Life or the Book of Death. In 2004 my husband was inscribed in the Book of Death.

When we left the service on the Eve of the Day of Atonement, he complained of a sore throat. It was the first sign that something was wrong; a month later he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. He died a year later, just a few days after the next Day of Atonement.

This time of the year is hard for me. Although I celebrate the holidays with my children, we belong to different congregations so I go to services alone and think of that innocuous sore throat that sent Ralph on a journey from which he would never return.

Wednesday evening was the beginning of the new year (Jewish holidays always begin at sundown the day before.) I was nervous all day. Should I skip the service that evening or go? Either way, I might feel bad. I was edgy with the children I worked with that afternoon, still uncertain about what to do. Maybe it would rain and that would give me an out. (We'd been getting showers from Hermine, which had made landfall in the Valley) No such luck.

What I mind is walking alone from my car to the synagogue. People are always TOGETHER. But I went. I put myself in an imaginary bubble, where nothing could bother me. Once inside, once the service began, the familiar prayers, the rabbi's soothing voice, the music I'd heard since my childhood filled me with a sense of peace. I felt comforted, I was glad I'd come and especially happy to run into families whose children I once worked with. "You taught my daughter to talk, and now I can't get her to be quiet;" "My son graduated from college with honors and his pronunciation is perfect."

During this time, we are supposed to forgive and seek forgiveness, to reflect on ours lives, and to resolve to be a better person in the coming year. We have a new start, a chance to be better, to be grateful for what we have, even though we've also lost. If you're not Jewish, it's still a good time to do this as the year winds down. Autumn reminds us that time is short; we have to make the most of what we have left.

Happy New Year and Happy September to all.


Boo said... [Reply to comment]

what a lovely post. I'm glad you found some peace by going to your synagogue xxx

thelmaz said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks, Boo. Nice to hear from you.

Meryl Jaffe, PhD said... [Reply to comment]

I am so sorry for your loss. I know how hard this time can be and hope that this new year brings you a year of continued growth and healing, good health, happiness and success.

Thank you for visiting my blog site and leaving such a supportive comment.

All the best and Happy New Year,
Meryl Jaffe


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