Lessons From A Funeral And The Cancer We Do Not Know – By Marc

For Len Roth and Family.Funerals are profound experiences. Moving and emotional… Heartbreaking and confusing… Sad and life affirming. (As a sad side note… when you Google images for Jewish cemeteries… most of what comes up are stories of their desecration. 😦 )

As I sat through the service for Len Roth, an older friend from the Big Ten Club, I realized how little I knew about him… and how I wish I had spent more time with him away from the club. I doubt he would have had time considering how busy he was… and how huge his family is… I think there were literally 20 grandkids at the service… or maybe it was 14, but still…

Seeing him at meetings and events was always a treat, but more time would have been nice.

As I listened to grandkid after grandkid after grandkid… and Len’s children and friends, I started feeling fairly inadequate… in both my production of offspring and in life accomplishments. I knew I wanted more out of this life, not in terms of things and money, but in terms of experiences, adventures, and most importantly, in the legacy I would leave behind.

In fact, that was my first, hopefully life changing realizaytion…
It’s not what we take with us, but what we leave behind.No more wasting time… this funeral yesterday reminded me of that. Life is not about what you keep, but what you give away… a poem, a kiss, a hug, a kind word, a soul full of generosity and love. It is not things, but emotions, memories, feelings and love.

It’s about purpose… connecting to Hashem or whatever higher power you believe in.

I knew being there was a mitzvah, and as the Rabbi explained, the act of helping to bury someone… i.e. the ritual of shoveling soil on top of the casket… is one of the highest mitzvahs because it cannot be repaid… and the more we do, the less the direct and immediate family has to do… but still… I felt so loss and sad.

Part of my guilt was that I did not go visit Len when he was in rehab from breaking his hip. Because I knew his energy and spirit, I assumed he’d be fine… and life has been beating the crud out of me lately, so I find myself a bit more cut off and selfish and inwardly focused. This is not good, on many levels.

What I did NOT know… and it sounds like maybe only family and close friends DID KNOW… was that Len was dying of cancer. Clearly he wanted to keep this private, and it was clear in certain speeches that dying on his own terms was paramount. But all I could think about was… if I had only known… THEN of course I would have gone to visit.

The lesson was clear. We cannot wait until someone is sick or dying to call… to reach out… to express our gratitude for them… to tell them we love them… because sometimes, there are things we may not know… cannot know.As I put two large shovels full of soil on the casket, the sound of the dirt and rocks hitting the wood struck me to the core. I cannot wait anymore… Not for dreams or love or anything. I need to fully love myself. I need to fully love Hashem… and I need to fully love the world and all my family and friends.

We may not always get the neon flashing light… that screams “I’m sick… Come visit before it’s too late.”

It was a mitzvah, but I still feel as if I have done too few. I hope Hashem has many years left for me… I just need to vow and promise to use them wisely… and above all, fill them with love… and do as many more mitzvahs as I can!!!

For this was my second, hopefully life changing notion…
The only thing you take into the ground with you is love.

The only thing you leave behind in the world is love.

As we take our final breath, may we all realize how loved we are. And may all those who remain know the same.

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