Every year at this time…

My brother has asked me to repost this blog every year. Jeanne’s grandbaby Brinn is now in kindergarden and has a beautiful little brother.

Days of Awe

According to Jewish tradition, the ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Years) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are commonly known as the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim). Those ten days are set aside for serious introspection. They are a time to consider our lives and deeds during the past year and to think about how to do better in the year to come.

If indeed we have another year to live…

In Jewish tradition, God sets aside the Days of Awe to make decisions about who will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year, and who will not. At sundown this evening — at sundown on Yom Kippur, that is —  our fates are sealed. Not everyone reading this little blog entry will be around next year; perhaps the one writing it will be gone as well. Don’t worry. I’m fine, at the moment: happy, healthy, everything going well. But… shit happens. Car wrecks and cancer and stupid accidents happen. Life is a terminal disease. Nobody gets out of it alive.

That’s not pessimism, it’s realism, and that’s how you’re supposed to think between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Life is a decidedly finite proposition. Don’t waste it. Don’t take it for granted.

For me, the introspection of Days of Awe came early this year. A little over a month ago, my brother’s fiancee went missing and for the next nine days, her family waited to find out if Jeanne Valentino had been inscribed in the Book of Life. When her body was found, dread gave way to grief and now those who loved her have a great gaping hole in their lives where Jeanne used to be.

My brother has found one source of consolation in his awful loss: his last words to Jeanne before he left the house on the last morning of her life were “I love you.” He wanted me to pass this message on to all of you.

Say “I love you.” Say it often. Mean it. Just say it  for the hell of it, sometimes, like when you’re sitting around eating popcorn and watching TV. Don’t assume that the people you love know that you love them. Tell them. Above all, say “I love you” before every parting. Make it part of  saying goodbye: “Bye! I love you!” Say it as though each day is your last together,  just in case it is. You won’t be sorry.


12 thoughts on “Every year at this time…”

  1. I lost my dad to suicide four years ago. The last words he heard from me were I love you at the end of our telephone conversation the night before. I am so profoundly relieved that those were my last words to him. Since then, I make a real effort to make sure those are my last words in conversations with friends and family.

  2. The first time this was posted, it really hit home for me. I realized that I was taking my husband – now of 55 years – very much for granted. Now we never part without an “I love you”. I can’t imagine my life without him, and I’m grateful that I learned this before it was too late.

  3. It is lovely that you send this every year. It is so real and true. We must remember to let the people we love know it.

  4. I love your writing and this post! My dad died all of a sudden and with no warning four years ago! It’s so important to make sure the people in your life know you love and think about them! The Jewish tradition of The Days of Awe sounds beautiful! I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools and we were raised to appreciate and learn about different religions. Your post makes me want to learn more about Jewish traditions. Thank you so much for your writing and insights!

  5. One of the gifts this Presbyterian elder has discovered in his senior years is that our mantra (Reformed and Always Reforming) can greatly expand our personal vistas of Faith. I’ve embraced my joy in other Faiths, and expanded my adoption of Yamin Noraim (Days of Awe) into a daily attitude of reflections of Praise and Thanksgiving. I use fewer words in my daily prayers (as I simply cannot find a proper vocabulary to deal with things I don’t understand) as I struggle with ideas I cannot comprehend. I certainly have abandoned my long “to- do-lists”) left on some divine bulletin board so that I may direct the power of the Infinite toward my needs, desires, and problems. I’ve discovered the purity of praying with my hands, my feet, my checkbook, and my attitude of awe. I’m less intoxicated by the vision of changing the world and more humbled by the desire to change myself. And…I’m more convinced of the effectiveness of love in all of Life.

  6. Mary, I am so sorry to hear of your and your brother’s loss. Thanks for the reminder to say, “I Love You”.

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