Tuesday, December 21, 2004

There, but for the grace of God.....

I spent this morning at a funeral. One of my partners, a friend, but not a close friend, died suddenly. One day he was at the holiday party, laughing, making jokes, the next day... dead. No warning. He left two kids and a wife 6 months pregnant. When I found out, of course I was sad, felt incredibly sorry for him, for his family, parents, kids, but the full impact of his death didn't hit me until I was handed one of those little folded pamphlets at the entrance of the synagogue, listing the name of the deceased, birth date, death date, shiva times, map to shiva house, and transliteration of kaddish and keil maleh rachamim. It was only then that I realized he was gone, never to come back, and he was 6 months younger than me.

At the service, the rabbi, friends of the deceased, and one of our partners all talked about him, his life, his contributions, and his family. It took about 45 minutes to get to the cemetery, and that gave me more time than I wanted to think about my friend, life and everthing else.

It occured to me that what affected me the most was the issue of my own mortality staring me in the face once again. Of course I was saddened by the loss, and incredibly saddened for the family, but since we were not incredibly close, I wasn't really going to miss him until the next partners meeting happened and he wasn't there. Obviously, I could think of him, and miss him, but he was not on my usual list of thoughts on a usual day, the way my wife, kids, family or close friends would be.

After hearing the listing of his accomplishments, I thought of what people would say if chas v'shalom it had been my levaya. It was kind of like a Yom Kippur accounting, although Yom Kippur for me usually deals with day to day issues of observance and attitude, rather than overarching lifelong accomplishments. On Yom Kippur I worry about things like if I spent enough time davening and with enough kavanah, could have squeezed in mincha before a case but didn't, behaved properly to my parents, wife and kids, gave tzedakkah properly, and a whole host of more serious issues that I dont want to list in public. This accounting involved the question if I was satisfied with what I had accomplished in my life so far. For me, I was ok with professional accomplishments and raising my kids, but I was blatently lacking in talmud torah and helping with communal activities. It was kind of a shock, on taking stock, to see these glaring holes in my spiritual resume.

Hanistarot L'Hashem Elokeynu. Obviously, I have no idea why it was his time. But in keeping with the belief that there is a positive reason for all that happens, I will try to keep this accounting in mind, and learn from it and act on it. In thinking about it some more, I actually am really going to miss him more than I realized. May his family be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim. Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet.

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