It has a clever, catchy name. It will allegedly occur once every 78,000 years. It has inspired dozens of fusion recipes like sweet potato latkes with cranberry applesauce. It has even inspired a Hanukkiah or menorah in the shape of a turkey, a “menurkey.” It is the perfect blending of two of your favorite holidays….It’s Thanksgivvukah. Next week we will celebrate the fortunate overlapping of these two holidays—lighting the 2nd candle as we ate our fill.
Let’s not forget that at its core, both holidays give us an opportunity to express our gratitude for the abundance in our lives. And while there are many important themes connected to Hanukkah, the festival of lights, one that really sticks out, is the idea that that the holiday is about heroes.
Our Beverly Hills community as well as the music community at large lost a true hero last week. Joel Pressman, a teacher of mine, lost his valiant battle with cancer. Joel, Mr. Pressman, or Mr. P was a consummate teacher. He was THAT teacher to literally thousands. The one you remember, the one who left an indelible mark on your life. He wasn’t always easy. He had a big personality and wasn’t afraid to share his opinions or judgments.
In the last few months before he died, Mr. P became more and more public about his condition- with many video posts on Facebook. And what became clear was that this teacher’s teacher would continue to teach us all up until his dying day.
“I’m not afraid of death. That’s the easy part” he said. “It’s dying that is really hard.”
In his dying months, he gave us all a gift. Rather than retreat into anonymity, he became more and more public. Even hosting a “Day in the Park with Joel” where literally hundreds lined up to say goodbye and to let him know just how much he meant to them.
That, I believe, was the most profound blessing (if there is a blessing in all of this) of his illness and passing. He got to know first-hand, just how significant he was to so many people. He got to hear, feel and truly understand just how loved he was. Most people don’t get that opportunity. We usually talk about people only after they are gone.
How did he do this? By sharing his one powerful and simple message. Love. Just love. Nothing else.
He told us all he loved us, and in so doing, encouraged us to tell him how we felt about him. He even inspired me to pick up the phone and tell several other important mentors in my life just how important they are to me.
At this time of year, just a few days before Thanksgivukkah, I encourage you to put real meaning behind this conflated holiday. Seek out an old mentor or teacher –one of your unsung heroes. Express gratitude for changing your life. In so doing, you just might change theirs.