Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5766 - June 14, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Life Journeys: Lessons from the Heart
One Month to Live

by Sara Gutfreund

When he is told that he has only one month to live, he returns home and makes a cup of mint tea. He sits on the wicker porch swing and looks up at the sky which is so blue that it hurts his eyes. The branches of the willow tree rise in the late afternoon breeze and then flutter back down with silent grace. The sky and the wind and the willow tree fill him with grief. There is so much to say good-bye to, and he just doesn't know how to begin.

He thinks of all the dreams that filled his younger years. Tomorrow, he had told himself then. Later. Next week. Maybe next year. Life had always seemed to be too full of pressing demands, and he had always prided himself on being a practical person. But somehow he had thought he would have more time than this.

He puts down his cup of tea and notices that his hands are dotted with tears. He won't make it to his daughter's chuppah now, and he will never see grandchildren. One month. Where should he begin? He finds himself accepting this decree just as he has accepted all the other limitations in his life. But he knows that his wife and children won't be able to accept that he is dying. How will he say good-bye to them?

He has a friend who always makes lists of what he has to do. He has never been the list-making type, but maybe that would help him now. He makes his way back to the kitchen and finds a pen and paper. Sitting at the kitchen table he begins with trembling hands. First he makes out the headings of each list. 1) People to say Good-bye To 2) Places He Still Wants to See 3) Unfinished Goals 4) Teshuvoh

Now his hands are shaking so much that he can no longer write. He stares down at his list of lists, and he realizes that he doesn't want to face any of it. He will not say good- bye to anyone. He will not speak of his death. He will not launch into a traveling frenzy, trying to drink in as much of olom hazeh as he can.

All the goals that have swum through his mind in a hazy mist all these years will remain formless and pointless. After all, he is dying. All of his goals seem suddenly petty and irrelevant. But the last item on the list tugs at him. Teshuvoh. The Yom Kippur of all Yom Kippurs has arrived. He is decreed to die, and he has been blessed with an awareness of the decree.

How many people pass away without warning? They don't have the chance to do Teshuvoh. What a gift he has been given! But where, oh where, can he begin? Tomorrow is Erev Shavuos, he remembers. He puts down the pad of paper and walks into the library. Reaching towards the oak bookshelf, he finds his beloved gemora; its shiny, brown leather cover is etched with swirls of gold.

He turns on the light and sits down at his desk. He begins to learn. He begins to prepare. He begins to know how to receive the gift that is coming. Soon he will receive the Torah with all of Am Yisroel. And soon he will return to His Maker and see that this world was just a hallway to the Palace. Everything begins only at the end.


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