Sometimes, I’m running hard enough that I don’t really have time to emotionally process what I’m doing. This week has been like that.
There was a very difficult death in the community this week. Someone much too young. An unexpected death. Someone about to graduate from college and begin his life.
I knew it was a terrible tragedy, but it wasn’t until this morning, when I had my first opportunity to sit and knit in three days, that I really felt it. I’d felt his mother’s pain, and that of people who knew him, but until this morning, hadn’t really felt any of my own pain.
My pain in nothing compared to those who knew him well, those who loved him. But I can’t ignore it either.
At times like these, I begin to feel like I’m dwelling in the sad section of the universe: the part which is filled with pain, tears, anguish. It’s far removed from the neighborhood where weddings take place, filled with joy and laughter and possibilities. Love is constant in both areas, but in one it brings joy, and in the other sadness.
My role, as rabbi, is at least as important in the sad parts of life. Probably more so. It is fulfilling to be of service. But it is hard. And sometimes, some days, I wonder how I’ll do it. How will I be present the next time I meet with a family who have just lost a loved one. But then, when I do, I’m not meeting with “a family who have just lost a loved one,” but rather, I’m meeting with a specific family, mourning a specific loss. And somehow that specificity, the uniqueness of that family’s loss will draw me into their lives. And I will be their rabbi.
I am a rabbi to be there for people in the hard times as well as the good. The hard times are full of spiritual growth and meaning. But they also take their toll.