Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Everyday is a Thanksgiving: Balance and Order, November 22, 2005: Five Years to the Day that Ben Died (on the secular calendar)

As much as I do appreciate and celebrate Thanksgiving as an American, I am especially reminded by today that with each and every sunrise, we witness a Jewish “thanksgiving”-that begins with upon our awakening: “Modei ani lefanecha …” (I give thanks to You …)
What distinguishes “Jewish thanksgiving” from the fourth Thursday in November is not only that we give thanks *“yom yom”-each and every day, and this is, I really think, the essence of the matter, that Jewish prayer praises The One Above even and most importantly in the face of affliction, misfortune and tragedy. However, let’s be clear on this point! It isn’t because we welcome any of the above; rather should any of life’s dark clouds gather overhead, we are automatically faced with a challenge that we either overcome or notwithstanding face a very precipitous, personal decline.

Frankly, we haven’t really much latitude in these matters if we examine them closely. On the one hand, we are free to follow the path of bitterness, cynicism and anger-leading one eventually to misanthropy and self-loathing-both of which are merely reflections of hatred for God. Conversely and, as strange as it may seem to some, we can declare:
“Hodu la Adoshem ki tov, ki le’olam chasdo”-(“Praise The One Above because He is good-because His kindness is eternal.”)

Herein lies the key, I think … that I’ll illustrate with the following example. However, I’ll preface by saying that though things do invariably turn out for the best-even and especially when our outlook seems so bleak- they are often times at first not always so apparent and self-evident as how today turned out for me.

I received an email today from a dear friend who wrote:

Dear Alan...you are in my thoughts and prayers today. I know what you are thinking about, and that you are missing Ben. I remembered that it was five years ago...an eternity, but as if only yesterday, for you. He was a beautiful boy, who wanted so much to be his own man...and he was. How else could he have endured so much, and yet still, was willing to give so much of himself? The true measure of a man, is to be able to love unconditionally...and he did...and you did, even though you may feel, in retrospect, that it took awhile for you to finally reach that stage. I said "may feel", and "finally", Alan, because I know that you ALWAYS loved Ben unconditionally. The times that you were embarrassed by some of the ways that Ben chose to express himself, were only that...an embarrassment...not a failure on Ben's part, or yours. You only wanted what was best for Ben...what you thought was best. That kind of love is the greatest gift that anyone can ever give or receive...and you and Ben gave that gift to each other.

Now I do admit that I was somewhat befuddled by the timing of the note, but as I was busy at work I let it go for later. Well, “later” arrived and at Starbucks tonight a close friend asked me: “So, how was your today?” It was precisely then that it hit me, the timing of the email; today marked in fact the five year secular anniversary of my son’s passing on November 22, 2000 which fell out in the year 2000 as the day before Thanksgiving, and that is how I think of it-not so much that Ben left us on the 22nd of November but rather on the day before Thanksgiving!

In keeping with my theme that there is-as a general principle-balance and order in our world and lives although they may quite often seem so much at the mercy of random collisions of reality.

“What is your proof?” you may ask. Well, as I am no scientist whose proof’s reliability is dependent upon laboratory duplication, I can only offer up as “proof” what news I learned from my daughter Kimmy who called me today, the 22nd day of November, with an excitement and glee in her voice that struck the balance that was needed to complete this day, to round it out as it were, to make the circle whole.

“Daddy, I got a job as a lawyer in a downtown firm! I’ll have an office with a view from the 39th floor overlooking downtown. It’s just what I wanted!”

That I feel pretty much sums up what happened today-a day when divine balance and even-handedness manifested themselves very dramatically-when a bad day five years ago became a better day today!


With Love said...

Hi Alan,

Reading this post, I was again struck by the similarity in our approaches to mourning and, perhaps, to life. In my own most recent post I also spoke of the daily thanks we give to HaShem - for the ongoing miracle of the world. It was only after I finished it that I noticed that it coincided with Thanksgiving!

Please accept my profound empathy on your son's fifth Yahrzeit; the Hebrew date must be sometime this week. May HaShem comfort you and your family.

And with you, I'm happy for your daughter's good news and, by extension, for the "nachas" that you get from her.


With Love said...

I just scrolled down and saw that Ben's Hebrew Yahrzeit has already passed. I hope the day, however difficult, was meaningful for you.