Today is my niece Ilyse’s Bat Mitzvah. This is the day that in The Jewish religion a child becomes an adult. Ilyse has always been an adult in my opinion. I cherish her thoughtfulness, her kindness, her intelligence and spirit. There are moments in my life in which I have connected with my niece because of these great qualities that I will never forget. She is a tremendous young woman. My favorite thing about her is that she is genuine. Every time I see her she looks me right in the eye, with a hug included and says “How are you feeling?” And she says it in a way that is so genuine and thoughtful and real.
Last night we went to Friday night service at her temple. It was a very emotional night for me in many ways. Partly fueled by Dexamethasome from chemo that morning and partly fueled by my love and admiration for Ilyse I had a few moments that stuck out for me.
First – Ilyse said one prayer last night – at the very end of the service she blessed the wine and the bread and I started bawling. Imagine that – I started CRYING over the “hamotzi” and the “boray pre hagafen.” Both prayers I have said and heard MILLIONS of times before, three quarters of which I never paid attention to, but when my niece said them I cried. Thanks DEX. I can only imagine my emotional state when she actually leads the entire service tomorrow.
Second – And I credit my mother in law for opening my mind to this: There was a rabbinic intern who spoke. It was her last night as an intern at the temple. She had just graduated from rabbinical school and is to be officially ordained as a Rabbi next week. She spoke about THE TIME IN BETWEEN – that is, the time IN BETWEEN graduating and actually being a Rabbi. For Ilyse – the time IN BETWEEN being a child leading a prayer on Friday night Shabbat and being an adult reading from the TORAH the next day. We live our lives from moment to moment, always striving for the next marker. It is just as important to embrace the meaning of the IN BETWEEN times. These are times to reflect on what has been and to embrace all that is ahead.
For me, as a patient with an INCURABLE CANCER, I constantly live in the TIME IN BETWEEN. The rest of my life will be the TIME IN BETWEEN. IN BETWEEN treatment and transplant right now. IN BETWEEN remission (we hope) and relapse (which right now is inevitable but manageable) later. My life, from 12/1/12 on will be a life of always being in that moment of being IN BETWEEN. And, you know what, that’s OK. I am fine with that. I will enjoy the TIME IN BETWEEN. I will enjoy every moment large and small, be grateful for every milestone that passes (and the steroid driven emotionality that comes with them) AND live each and every moment of my life to the fullest. Which brings me to the last thought from last night.
The Rabbi spoke of the long winter behind us and how spring may be breaking through. He told us that gratitude is a great way to get through dark times and lead us into better ones. He went around the temple and asked people to share the things they are grateful for. I didn’t speak up but here is my list:
Grateful for friends and family who support me, call me, send me text and emails and comment in this space. It means so much to have your support.
Grateful for coworkers, bosses, clients and others who have enabled me to continue to not only work – but have given me reason and opportunity to THRIVE in doing so.
Grateful for my children who have embraced my disease, read my blog, asked me questions and cheered my health with every passing number. My children are REMARKABLE.
MOSTLY – grateful for HELENE. My wife decided that her way to cope with this is treat me like normal. Like I don’t have Cancer. That’s hard to do – but every day she soldiers on BRAVER THAN ME facing my mortality as if it is her own. Last night, on the way to temple, we started fighting about directions – how to get there. It is a fight we have had thousands of times before only this one was ELEVATED. Steroids, my breaking point, her ability to push my buttons a bit. I got out of hand. Helene’s ability to forget about it and put it behind her pulled us through that muck. She treats me like I don’t have Cancer but she always remembers that I do.
During the service the temple said a prayer of Misheberach. A healing prayer. Attendees have a chance to stand and announce a person that needs healing, help or prayer. My wife raised her hand and spoke my name. She then grabbed my arm as we said the Misheberach and cried. And I did too. And so there, in a congregation of people, my wife and I lived in the moment. The IN BETWEEN moment of uncertainty. The IN BETWEEN moment of NOW. The IN BETWEEN moment of reality that we will live in for the rest of our lives. But we EMBRACED it. It was the first time since my diagnosis that I have seen her cry. It was the first time since my diagnosis that we cried together. I am GRATEFUL for that moment and every moment and milestone that will follow – whatever they may be.
Reverend Run (@RevRunWisdom on Twitter) one of the members of the rap group RunDMC tweeted a philosophy the other day. “The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they see the past better than it was and see the present worse than it is.” I remember the past. I have memories, great memories, of the past. I look to the future. I look to the milestones yet to come. There are too many Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, graduations to come that I plan on sticking around for. But most of all – I live in the present. I live in the IN BETWEEN moments that make up my life from now on and I embrace them all surrounded by people I love and care about. WHAT A LIFE!