© Monday, March 17, 2014

Carpe Diem = “Seize the day”

…for once the day is passed, it can never be relived

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Aunt Goldie at 101 years!

The day was 85 and muggy in Florida and after my half-hour run in the sun my body was dripping wet. I had literally one minute left to a spiritual discourse I was listening to on my portable device when I saw my Dad come out of my parents’ parked car in front of their condo. He indicated he wanted to tell me something and I somewhat reluctantly paused the talk and slid one of my expensive noise-canceling earphones off a single ear.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said with some intensity. A slight smile came to my face, as I thought he was going to tell me some ditzy move my mother pulled, like locking the keys in the car. “Goldie died today.”

My heart sank. We were planning to see her just yesterday but because all of us were a little tired we decided to back it up until today. I voiced my distress about this and my Dad sought to sooth my ache by telling me that she was in a coma for the last couple of days, which I later found out to be untrue. Even then I thought I would have still liked to see her and touch her head and wish her goodbye while her soul was still in her body, packing its final bags, getting ready for its new adventure.

Goldie was the last of the first generation of the Resnick family that came to America from Russia. With her passing there is no longer a living connection to this history. There are many who can retell this history but none whose eyes glaze as they time travel before your eyes and bring back memories that play inside of their heads on their own personal movie screens like she did. Her mouth was the stereophonic speakers, allowing all who listened to her stories to feel like they were sitting in the theater beside her watching our family history unfold on an IMAX screen.

Uncle Willie and me
Uncle Willie and me

A few years back, my Great Uncle Willie died and I also felt a loss. He looked and talked a lot like my Grandpa Ruby, who was a lover of life and the real character of our immediate extended family and, perhaps dishonorably, I was slightly using him to stay in touch with Grandpa Ruby who had died over 20 years prior. I did get to see him not much before he died and, while no parting is easy, I felt I kind of had the chance to say my goodbye and this made it a touch easier for me to deal with. He was 97 when he died and it would be hard-pressed to say that he didn’t have a full life. Each year I saw Goldie, I never knew if it would be the last, as she had cleared the 100-year mark. Goldie was 103 when she left her body.

Ruby, Rose and me
Grandma Rose, me and Grandpa Ruby

Another big regret I have regarding the timing of Goldie’s death was that I finally found my true love, who came with me to Florida this year, and I wanted her to meet Goldie. My sister once told me how she wished her husband had met Grandpa Ruby so he could have had the opportunity to experience in person what he could only experience in story and picture. I wanted my partner in life to meet this amazing, lucid, sharp-minded matriarch of my family and, in doing so, be given a baptism of sorts into the Resnick family as generations of history flooded into her in a secret transmission.

At least once during my yearly visits Goldie would inquire whether I had a special someone in my life, to which I would usually say no. She would respond in the positive that someday I would. When I asked if she cared whether she was Jewish or not, she would answer in a totally progressive way with, “It doesn’t matter. As long as you are in love.” I wanted to present to Goldie the girl she knew I would eventually find and love…but I missed this opportunity by only a few days.

As I walked into the guest room, my girlfriend had the sympathetic eyes of someone who already knew and was preparing the nurturing ground for those who came after.

“Did you hear that Goldie died?” I asked. She nodded with a sad knowing. I continued,  “I wanted you to meet her.” And soon I found myself embraced in her arms as my heart flowed in buckets through my tear ducts.

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THREE GENERATIONS: Goldie –> Hedy –> Andrew

 I have heard so many stories about Grandpa Ruby and lived through some of the funny ones myself. If I had to retell stories about Great Aunt Goldie I would fall mostly blank. I do know she was an unbelievable caretaker of the family, always looking out for her family before even her own needs, sometimes to the point of serious hardship. From talking to Goldie, I don’t think she ever considered her service to her family a sacrifice. I think she just saw it as what needed to be done; it was her choice-less nature to serve and she was just living her truth, her love.

Over the last decade that I can remember, while Goldie’s mind was always sharp as a newly constructed automobile, with all the mileage she put on it her body started to lose its car show shine and she often complained that it felt to her more like an old jalopy whose poor shock absorbers and worn-out wheels made for a quite unpleasant and painful ride. Having a Master’s in Herbology, I asked her once if I sent her herbal supplements if would she take them. She said no. Whether she believed in natural medicine or not, it was clear that she thought pouring top quality oil into a rusted out wreck was a waste of effort; she was ready to release her vehicle to the junkyard.

In the last few years Goldie often voiced that she didn’t know why she was still alive and wanted to die, often to the chagrin of her family, who tried to convince an athlete wanting nothing more than to retire that she owed it to herself to stay in the game; we were huge fans. Goldie was ready to let go; we were not.

Goldie and me

When I saw her last year, at a spry age of 102, her voice was quieter and her body seemed more frail. I sat by her feet like an adoring dog, wanting to lap up every little scrap that she dropped off her plate and onto the floor.

I asked her what she thought happened after you die. My recollection is that she didn’t think anything special happened, besides being lowered into the ground and returning to the Earth. I asked her if there was something else after death if she could come back to me and let me know. Perhaps this seemed like a childish question from a 45-year old man but I was deadly serious. I wanted a travelogue of a journey to the Unknown that few understand but all have to take, to which she had not only already booked her one-way ticket but was looking forward to her trip as well. She said, “Okay,” but this seemed less a signing of a contract and more an appeasement to a child who asks if he can give cookies to Santa Claus. So now she has passed…

Goldie and me4

Right before my shower after the run, I talked to her in my mind and asked with anger fueled by sadness, “Why couldn’t you just wait one more week before leaving?” I heard her frail yet powerful voice say that she was in terrible discomfort and she is relieved to have dropped her body. Without words exchanged, I seemed to get that there is rarely an “ideal” time to die for everyone involved, that someone will always want to have one more chance to say goodbye. I decided I would meditate later with her in mind and take that one more chance to say goodbye.

I am reminded of a story of a spiritual teacher who taught Non-duality, that the world is all One and there are no opposites of good and bad, light and dark, happiness and sadness outside of a construction that humans create. When his master had died, the spiritual teacher cried and cried like a newborn. A man came up to him and said, “I thought the whole basis of your teaching was that everything is One and eternal and there is no death separate from life? So then isn’t your master’s soul eternal? So why do you cry?” The spiritual teacher replied, “Yes, it is true that his soul is eternal. But I cry for his body that was just as beautiful to me and of which I will no longer be able to gaze lovingly upon.”

While I do believe something continues on after the body no longer does, I can’t be sure if this involves a sort of Heaven, or another plane of existence, or reincarnation, or what have you. But reflecting on my limited interaction with Goldie over the years, it seems clear to me that love is eternal and that while our bodies may decay, our love lives on in the hearts and minds of all we have touched.

I honor Goldie’s service, her caring and her love.

These will always remain alive in me.

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