Boker Tov, Shana Tovah and G’mar Hatima Tovah.

I missed Yom Kippur last year.

I will be 75 years old, and I am certain that I had never before missed Yom Kippur, at least for around 70 years.

A few days following my “Yom Kippur surgery,” I was in rehab for a couple of days when I became deathly ill, though the details about all of what followed were sort of smushed together, making a chronological recitation really not an option for me. 

Through the haze of pain and a 104 or 5 degree temperature, I remember an ambulance.

The next experience for me was light. As I have recited in short to others, I saw the light. You know, that light we have heard described as beckoning to an individual as he may be dying.

Yes, I saw that light. While it consumed my vision in all directions, it was bright but not blinding. It was soft, all white, with no edges that I might have peeked behind. While I now, a year later, imagine there should have been accompaniment of some sort –                there was no music.

Some period of time passed – of course, I have no idea how much time – when I simply became aware of the light’s meaning.  I understood I was in the presence of the Shekhinah, and she tempted me to get up and go, AND JUST THEN, I heard voices, the light dimmed, and I began to see faces, most importantly, Marci’s, but I didn’t understand what she or anyone else was saying. Of course, I didn’t have my eyeglasses or my hearing aids, so my confusion at that point was exactly what I would have experienced without that fever! Guess I was alive after all!

In the Zohar, the mystical record of Kabbalah, in Metzora, it recounts:  When it comes time for a person to die, the soul doesn’t leave the body until the Shechina appears and the soul, in its desire to re-unite with the Shechina goes forth toward the light. Thankfully, for me, I either resisted that temptation, or the Shekhinah wasn’t that interested!

Turns out I had a serious infection, and after a “few” courses of antibiotics administered while in the cardiac ICU at Lankenau, several more days of every machine that could take a picture taking pictures of every inch of the inside of my body, the decision was made that I could withstand surgery, and my gall bladder was removed by a wonderful surgeon, Dr. Rodney Durham, who was able to do it laparoscopically late one night about a week after the crisis brought me to the ER. Except for panicking when I awoke still intubated and on a breathing machine, my recovery proceeded more quickly. I was back in rehab a few days later, and so a week later, after a month away from home – about 100 yards from Lankenau! – I continued my recovery.  When I say “great” now in response to questions about how I am feeling, I really mean it.  In short, I am the poster child for knee replacements – I have them in both knees – and for the two-fer I received, also – pacemaker and defibrillator!  I have another implant now, too, so every trip thru an airport can be an adventure! (And a great commercial for Medtronic, which made all the electronic devices except my hearing aids!) Ain’t aging pretty?

Each morning, as I awake, (except for the occasional startled alarm awakening, or oversleeping) I offer this:

מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ, מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶֽךָ.

I offer thanks before you, living and eternal Sovereign, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

I sing to G-d in gratitude for you…….

The last line here: “I sing to God in gratitude for you” is my addition that came from Mussar study. It is this declaration of Emunah – Faith, that is a major lesson of my experience.

Thanksgiving – Gratitude – Hodayah, for me, is explicitly connected to Faith. I have often in my life considered myself an atheist, proceeded through periods of agnosticism – you know, the usual path for American Jews who bother to engage in the process.  This struggle produces an ongoing, perhaps endless, journey to belief in G-d. This journey, then, continues for me, and occasionally is still a struggle.

What is not a struggle, though, but endless joy, is the gratitude I feel for G-d’s gift of life, each and every morning, and numerous specific times throughout each day. 

Since last Spring, when Marci had a heart attack, and double bypass surgery, the daily thanks I give to G-d is shared with Dr Frank Sutter, the surgeon who performed her double bypass. Maybe not every day, but every day I do love the scar she wishes would fade but to me is the most beautiful thing ever!

Life without gratitude would be empty, soul-less! And joy is the simplest form of gratitude!

I am, therefore I thank. (Cindy Lubar Bishop)

Please try gratitude on a regular basis. It can be transformative, and may help you on your own journey. I end with a quote from Melody Beattie:

“Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, A house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Thank you!