Often when a person knows they have a limited amount of time left, he or she may plan exotic trips or want to try daredevil experiences. Being here with my loved one’s spouse whose every normal function is being diminished daily, I’m instead struck by the beauty of the seemingly small, but most meaningful joys in life.
I must admit, when I arrived here the first week since I had not gradually experienced the precipitous decline since my last visit, I couldn’t help but sob at the loss of what was. Seeing my dear one’s shift from walking and feistiness just a few weeks ago to being helpless, bedridden, and unable to communicate other than with his eyes, or with groans when agitated, at first was a difficult adjustment. Yet it only took a couple days for me to change my expectations and be able to see the world differently.
I won’t sugarcoat the reality that my dear one does not want to be in this situation. With the only functioning limb remaining, his left hand relentlessly grabs my hand to help him get out of bed or out of the wheel chair where we can prop him up for a change of scenery. Yet within that narrow band of possibilities, he and I, and his other loved ones have experienced amazing joys and evidences of HaShem’s love and presence through it all.
On Sunday mornings I listen to the Chagigah radio program on WERS through an app so I can do so even when traveling. As my dear one and I had breakfast together last Sunday we had the show on but the volume turned down as I chatted with him. When there came to be a pause in the conversation (my one sided ramblings), I turned up WERS and at that precise moment they were playing “Havah Nagilah”.
This show plays every aspect of Jewish music – klezmer, modern Israeli, classic Jewish, even showtunes and songs written by Jewish songwriters. It also showcases Jewish humor, and has Jewish guest interviews and commercials. So the possibility of our hearing a certain song at a certain time is, well, impossible. Yet at that precise moment, when I turned up the volume, Havah Nagilah was playing.
Why this timing was so meaningful to us related to a special memory. At his wedding years ago, when I told him the band was playing Havah Nagilah, he couldn’t quite make out the Hebrew. Being a Mexican American, he thought I said “Have a Tequila” rather than Havah Nagilah! This Sunday morning, how we reacted in joy when that song played! I was able to see the brightness in his eyes and in his droopy smile. How I was in awe of the perfect timing. HaShem through His ministering presence was right at that breakfast table with us.
Later in the morning I was singing to him when he seemed pensive as he was gazing out the window. So I stopped and instead turned up Chagigah. Again, at that precise moment, WERS was playing “Desperado”, in Hebrew! This (in English of course) is one of, if not his favorite, songs.
As I laughed and he lopsidedly grinned at the synchronicity, as I sang “The Disciples Prayer” to him, we palpably experienced HaShem’s presence, in the room, in and around us. My loved one’s walk, and that of his loved ones, are being guided by so much love. I don’t, nor does he, need to experience skydiving to feel joy. Yes, I see his suffering and his desire to be free of that wheelchair, to be able to tend to his own needs, talk and walk again. And there is no way to describe in our human terms the horror he is experiencing. Yet whatever this journey is, however long it takes, in our quiet moments, we can still experience the mystical joy of God’s presence. The walk is not alone.
Our lives are filled with enormous challenges and obstacles seemingly blocking our ability to feel joy. Ironically, sometimes when what we take for granted is stripped from us, we are more able to experience the more subtle joys . . . happiness expressed through a half smile from a paralyzed face, the ability to be outside even in a wheel chair, peaceful slumber, each precious morning left to still be able to swallow a morning cup of coffee. Now, from that place of realization, add the countless joys in your life. From the hardest times in your lives, count forth the gifts, all the more palpable. As you do you will find the greatest joy of all, knowing how much you are loved.
Dig deep for the “small” gifts of joy, so abundant your days will be overwhelmed in Him.