By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Harriet and I had to come to Florida this past Tuesday night. Harriet's mother called and asked that we come right away because she felt that she was going to die. We got here on Wednesday morning, after a Red-Eye and found her looking weak. Yet, she got it together. We went to the doctor with her and she explained away the reason she called as, "I felt like they should be able to see me before I died, I did it for them." This, of course, was not my experience! I got the call and she was worried, if not frightened. I understand not wanting to die alone, my mother and I have spoken about this a lot recently. What I am trying to understand is my mother-in-law's need to look strong for others/herself.
Since I learn a lot by writing, I guess this is my mindfulness practice; I am starting to get a grasp on this experience. My mother-in-law comes from a generation/time when to show any weakness would lead to persecution, ugliness, and sometimes death. My Mother-in-Law can't fargin, as we say in Yiddish, any emotion at times of strife because she had to "be strong" as the eldest child of immigrant parents. She has carried this way throughout her life and, even as she faces impending death, can't give in to emotion of any kind. It is sad for her daughter, Harriet. I am, in some ways, a spectator/witness to all of this.
Molly, my mother-in-law, is fighting to live each day. She makes Bridge Game dates and still plays well at 102! She does her hair each day, goes down to dinner, carries on conversations about current events, etc. You would not guess her age, ever. And she is dying, not today, but maybe soon. I guess this paradox is too great for her—otherwise she would laugh about it. How can she be dying when she is still so involved in living? This is the lesson for this moment.
I have often spoken about the prayer for the sick being a call to action, a reminder that we have to help all people who are sick live until they are healthy, or until they die. My mother-in-law exemplifies this teaching. Nothing is really stopping her, she barrels through life, really living the Song "My Way." She is calling the shots until the shot is called for her. Molly gives advice when asked, has so many people at her retirement community that care and look in on her and she teaches all of us; how to live with all we have at any and every moment. Thanks Molly, for being a wise woman and a great mentor.