It is Good Friday. A year ago, Good Friday was on April 10th, and my father–with his brain tumor accelerating and changing and moving into its final form–had a gran mal seizure in the room in his house called the Sun Room. Last year, it occurred on the 1st day of the Omer–Chesed beChesed, Lovingkindness in Lovingkindness–and began for him the period of his illness which the literature refers to as End of Life.
I had deliberately avoided reading about the End of Life during his disease, which he had now had for about a year and a half–I think once, early on, I had read about it. Then, at some point during this period–after Good Friday, I think–as he got, in the words of Warren Zevon, “all fucked up,” I read it again. The literature was concerning–for many people with glioblastoma multiforme, End of Life typically meant just more and more sleep–
And as I type this, I think of my newborn son, Thomas, upstairs, who, now, seven weeks since his birth, is beginning to sleep a little less each day–a year after the death of my father which was the culmination of a seven week period in which he slept more and more until finally his eyes closed forever–I am looking at my son’s blue eyes widen and waken more and more–
As I said, the literature was concerning–while most with GBM had relatively peaceful Ends of Life, others had more troubling experiences–hallucinations and the like–it was upsetting–
At this point, however, on Good Friday, we did not necessarily see this as the Beginning of the End–we had been told that as the disease progressed, the likelihood of seizure would increase–
I don’t remember exactly what happened after. Margaux and I had been there for the two Seders, and my sister had stayed on, so her and her husband and the girls were there for the seizure–I didn’t come that night, I don’t think–maybe the next day? Maybe that night. I don’t know. I don’t remember.
I go to look at my photographs. I have a photo from Holy Saturday in my apartment, of five Lego Voltron tigers, lined up on a bookshelf. So I wasn’t in Elkins Park then. The following day, I have a photo of a calendar, taken at 5:29 PM, which we laid out with my sister and her husband and Margaux providing a schedule where one child would be with our parents every day–two days on and four days off. On April 14, there is the photo of a check taken in Elkins Park for the plumber to fix the output pipe from their kitchen, which S clogged when she tried to shove potatoes down the garbage disposal–
But back to Good Friday.
And what it meant. And what it means.
This is what Chabad says about Week 1 and Day 1 of the Omer:
Week 1 – Chesed
Love is the single most powerful and necessary component in life. Love is the origin and foundation of all human interactions. It is both giving and receiving. It allows us to reach above and beyond ourselves. To experience another person and to allow that person to experience us. It is the tool by which we learn to experience the highest reality – G‑d. In a single word: love is transcendence.
Day 1 – Chesed b’Chesed
Examine the love aspect of love. The expression of love and its level of intensity. Everyone has the capacity to love in their hearts. The question is if and how we actualize and express it.
What is my capacity to love another person? Do I have problems with giving? Am I stingy or selfish? Is it difficult for me to let someone else into my life? Do I have room for someone else? Do I allow room for someone else? Am I afraid of my vulnerability, of opening up and getting hurt? How do I express love? Am I able to communicate my true feelings? Do I withhold expressing love out of fear of reaction? Or on the contrary: I often express too much too early. Do others misunderstand my intentions?
Whom do I love? Do I only love those that I relate to and who relate to me? Do I have the capacity to love a stranger; to lend a helping hand to someone I don’t know? Do I express love only when it’s comfortable?
Why do I have problems with love and what can I do about it? Does my love include the other six aspects of chesed, without which love will be distorted and unable to be truly realized.
From A Spiritual Guide to the Omer by Simon Jacobson
So, for him, Good Friday–the day of the beginning of the end, the day of the beginning of the Omer–was the aspect of Lovingkindness within the Sphere of Lovingkindness–Love, Loving Love, Love loves to Love, and that day, he woke up next to his wife of 40 years, the love of his youth, and his august middle age, and now, of his rapidly approaching final days–and his beloved daughter was there, with her strong, kind, beloved husband, and their two beautiful beloved granddaughters, the two joys of his twilight–that house, on that day, was bursting, bursting, bursting with love, with the love of love, with so much love, with only love–
And the bursting of the vessels–the recovery of the shards–nothing Gold can stay–is that not the very definition of a seizure–that the lightning of our mind slips the fragile channels, overflows, brightens, makes a terrible and awesome light–and if the lightning is Us, and if who we are is Love, Loving Love, then it was Love that overpowered the channels, that brought the lightning storm, that awakened the doom of destiny that was coming–
For us, this year, we are four days behind, for us, this year, Good Friday is the Fifth Day of the Omer, and it is not the Love of Love, but the Humility of Love, Hod, Hod b’Chesed.
And a year later, with him gone–yes, we are humbled. Humbled in our love. We did not know how much we loved him, or how much he loved us, until the very end. I feared the final day, the vigil, and when it came–it was so terrible, so very terrible–the vessels broke–
I did not do enough. We can never do enough. All of life is failure. Failure to love enough. Failure to do enough. Failure to be strong enough. We try to hold it up, and we tire, and we falter, and we break. To be mortal is to fall. And Time–Time must move on, it must keep going, it must leave us–but does it stop? Does it stop for a moment to sit with us, when we fall, while we fall, to hold us, in its embrace, slow or fast, hard or soft, holding our weak selves with a strong warm darkness that is simply a light we cannot see–
Oh, the Love, the love, the love–
Hod means meaningful acceptance. Submission. Majesty, splendor, glory. And the submission to the Great Energies that allows us to give it Meaningful Reflective Form. To be humbled by love and to reflect on it, to give it word, to say, to whisper, to understand–
I love you, we almost hear him say, and know, so painfully, that we will never hear it again.