Wow. Talk about being sucked into the vortex. Hi everyone, I’m still here, and thriving. I’ve been so busy! Tomorrow I will recap my Passover and my spring break (not much to recap, honestly, mostly just me in my backyard reading Harry Potter).
In Judaism, one of the highest forms of mitzvah, a colloquial term referring to an act of human kindness as well as a religious term referring to the 613 commandments given by God to be fulfilled by a Jew in their lifetime, is to honor the dead.
Five years ago on the last night of Passover, I was getting ready to go back to school for the last leg of my senior year of high school. I was probably catching up on some procrastinated reading, or else on the phone with my (now ex-) boyfriend. The latter is more likely.
I won’t go into details here about the sound of my mother’s voice shrieking for the phone, the sight of my powerful stepfather collapsed on the bedroom floor, or the panic in my chest when I heard the EMT radio in, “48 year old male, severe cardiac arrest, several attempts to revive, still unresponsive…“
I just know I switched off. I went numb. My stepfather, a popular local rabbi, young and “in” with the kids, one of the smartest men I ever knew, could not be…unresponsive. He and my mother still had a long life ahead of them to share together. This was a bad nightmare, had to be.
It wasn’t. The longest night of my life, watching my mother sobbing on my bedroom floor.
I called my best friend to tell him what happened. Shocked, he said, “I didn’t even know your stepdad was sick.”
“He wasn’t,” I replied.
But he was. He had to have been. A healthy man does not spontaneously go into cardiac arrest for no reason. And healthy my stepfather was not. Smart, brave, wise, spiritual, open, honest, giving, he was, but “healthy” was never an adjective one could attribute to that man. Obese, morbidly so, addicted to cigarettes and Diet Coke, the man refused to go to the doctor, and could not for the life of him seem to correct his eating habits. Two years prior to his death, he had seen great success on the Atkin’s diet, but for anyone who has tried Atkin’s, you might know it isn’t a successful lifestyle, it’s truly extreme. And an extreme diet of high protein and fat undertaken by an obese man with self-induced heart troubles is a recipe for disaster.
I know this now, honestly do. And I learned so many things from my stepfather, but one of the greatest things I learned is that if you are not responsible for your own health, you will pay for it. There is no magical solution, but a life-long dedication to a healthy lifestyle is a formula for success and happiness.
I think of him often when I consider many aspects of my future. Religiously, socially, educationally, he makes his presence known in the back of my mind (sometimes in the front) while I make decisions. He taught me about leadership, about acceptance, about charity. I always have spare change in my pocket just in case somebody needs something, which I learned from him and always consider it a tribute to his memory.
Today, on his fifth yahrzeit, the Jewish anniversary of his death, I honor his memory with my commitment towards a healthy lifestyle and a commitment to helping others around me become healthier in their lives for longevity and happiness.
I hope you all have a beautiful day. Wherever you are right now, take a moment to breathe deeply and open your body and your mind to clarity, accepting the wisdom the universe has to offer to you now.