So I was listening to Matisyahu’s new song – So High So Low. I have to explain: I’ve been a fan of Matis for almost three years now, and let me tell you, I love his music! But it isn’t just the style of music he uses, or his rhythms, although they are catchy and make you want to move; but what mostly catch my attention are his lyrics! Like “...from the forest itself comes the handle for the ax...”, or “…a whirlwind of praise from below to above…”, they are lyrics that carry sustenance, a message; now that’s what I love most about Matis’ music. Listening to the song So High So Low – I was immediately struck by the part that says: “…I’ve been searching for the shade of a Tree…I heard about it through the Tune in the Breeze…” As soon as I heard that line, I knew exactly what he was talking about; it reminded me of the movie August Rush, where the little boy says – “music is everywhere”. Jewish Mysticism teaches that all of G-d’s Creation sings praises and acknowledgement to the Creator; the trees sing, the birds, the grass, and yes, even the wind. A few days ago I was reading at the NASA website about a recent discovery; after sending the Cassini spacecraft to explore the planet Saturn, they found that the rings of such planet can transmit radio waves that make sounds. I listened to them, and although they resemble sound effects from a Sci-Fi movie, I was simply amazed, and quickly remembered what David says in Psalms 148:3-4 – “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies”. I’ve noticed than in more than one song, Matis refers to such “tune in the wind”, songs like -Time of Your Song “…The world is moving to the song I hear, Who’s that singing wind is rushing in my ear…” and Aish Tamid – “…My insides rise I start to feel paralyzed; Let out a sigh-a melody blew by- like an ancient war crythe way the sunlight hit the trees it really caught my eye, glistening' listening' to the breeze dancing' through the leaves, freeze, the city move's in slow motion like a dream…” He gives us a brief reference, as if hinting the importance of keeping an ear open to such “tune”; but in this new song – So High So Low – he gives it to us straight out. As if telling everyone, music is everywhere…all you got to do is pay attention; keep an ear open and have your soul ready to listen…and you just might catch that “tune in the breeze”.
Rosh HaShana is a day of celebration, a day of feasting and spending time with your family and fellow congregants at Shul. Ours was not different from any other. I prepared my home with great diligence, and must admit a lot of excitment. I prepared the meal, which by the way, was delicious! Being a Hispanic Jew, the obvious rice and beans could not be absent from my table; I baked a delicious chicken with Teriyaki/Honey sauce, and also baked a carrot cake, and a pumpkin bread. Sweets were not absent in our home either. I had apples, with 2 differents types of honey, a pomegranate, sweet and delicious Rashi Wine, and our raisin Challah! (all part of a traditional Rosh HaShanna table). We recited our blessings and off we went to our Synagogue. It was packed! First time I see so many in such a small place. The environment was festive, the Rabbi had his white robe on, live music, and dancing!!! Everyone was happy to be there! But Rosh HaShana isn't just a time of celebration and eating. It is also a time of retrospection; it is a time to reflect on our past actions and attitudes throughout the year. For me it was more like a safe haven. A time to forget everything that is going around me. Forgetting the grim news about the economy in our Country, forgetting the ineptitude of our Government and concentrating on what is more important. Concentrating in my spiritual life. Re-examining my soul, and seeking for hidden sins, or unforgiveness. As I celebrated, I couldn't help but think of all the people that I might have offended in some way, or hurt, or dissapointed. I realized I needed to do Teshuvah.
Teshuvah in Hebrew means "to return" , but it is often interpreted as "repentance". Analizing this, I must admit there is similarity in both. In order to repent we must return to the place we first sinned, fix the damage, and start anew. This new year I have decided to follow His Path - the Path that HaShem has set before me and my family. I will continue to serve Him and observe his Holy Feast as He has commanded us to do so. I have already began my process of introspection, and have begun asking for forgivennes. Right now we are in the Ten days of Teshuva, where we make sure that there is no hidden sin, no rock unturned inside the dessert of our souls; we must search deep inside those roots of unforgivennes and bitterness, and ask HaShem to set us free, to forgive us, and to write our names in the Book of Life. Listening to the Shofar I realized the great importance it has! It is not just to play the Shofar in front of the congregation. It is playing the Shofar out of obedience, because He commanded us to do so. The sound of the Shofar has two purposes: 1- it reminds G-d that we are His children, and beg for His merciful judgement. 2- it confusses HaSatan from the accusations he takes in front of the Throne of Glory, and makes him silent! I invite you to take advantage of these days of Grace that we are given, and ask for forgivennes; make Teshuvah, return to your natural state of righteousness, and be free!!!
It's been a while since my last blog. That's because I've been really busy. I had to move from one city to another, and that is not an easy task. First comes the packing, then the moving, and finally the settling into the new place; by which time you are so exhausted, you only think of hot baths and sleep! No rest for me though. As soon as I was settled in to my new place, I had to start getting ready for our new homeschooling year. Thank G-d that went by a little smoother! We started classes 2 weeks ago, and thankfully everything is going well, although it is time consuming. Just when I thought that everything was going back to normal, settling into our rutine, threats of hurricanes started coming in. I immediately moved into survival mode and began preparing with food and other primary necessities. Ike was a big scare for Florida, but in the end, it never came even close...at least not like Fay. I also spent a lot of time watching the democratic and republican conventions; why it is beyond me. At this point in time I am so weary about everything that has been going, that in truth, I don't believe neither candidate will actually improve the situation the Nation is facing at this moment. So I practically wasted my precious time watching these people attack each other while smiling, promising impossibilities, and try to sell themselves as the saviours of the Nation. Each with their own strategies; but I just can't help but notice the arrogance in one of the candidates, and the struggles to survive from the other. Obama promised change - he even said his campaign would be different, above the unrefined tactics of smear campaign and whatnot. He even inspired Hollywood to make songs and videos about him, his books are best sellers, and he is seen as fresh and new blood for Washington. Have I seen that? Nope! All I see now is Obama attacking McKain for any little thing he says, taking phrases out of context, making TV Ads that are simply the same old thing I always see every four years!!! Now, what I would like to know is; in what way is that supposed to be change? Truthfully the answer is beyond me. Now to make matters worse, in my eyes at least, they have taken the Vice Presidential Candidate Gov. Sarah Palin and have practically skinned her alive; I never saw the McKain camp do that against Joe Biden. And what's even more discussting to me is to see women speak against her! What happened to the Clinton followers? all those women inspired by Hillary's successful campaign as the presidential candidate? So it's ok to be inspired by Hillary, but not by Sarah Palin? See, I am beginning to think I am just an ignorant uneducated person, who understand nothing when it comes to politics; hence my lack of enthusiasm lately. I have decided I am not even wasting my vote. Neither canditate inspire me. I do admire the profile and package that McKain brings into the picture; and I do find admirable that a women as young as Palin, with 5 children, can successfully reach such a milestone, even when nobody knew who she was!! In my opinion, politics are just as corrupted as Wall Street is, and they are definetly not looking out for Middle America. Instead, like with everything else, everyone is looking out for each other, their own success, their own means of gaining power over a Nation based on Capitalism, Democracy, and the ACLU! ha!! Yes, I do admit being conservative, but frankly cannot identify myself with neither party...so I guess I am leaning towards the independent line of thought, which in my opinion is growing in this Nation more and more each year. The minute a third party appears in the horizon that claims to represent the independent vote, that's the minute I'll stop calling myself an independent. I do not believe in modern politics; but I do worry about having an unexperienced, pop sensation, arrogant and unknown (unknown views and beliefs) get the power. Having Obama run this Nation is as scary as having all our borders open wide for everyone to come in and do whatever! But that's just my opinion.
So I quickly got bored with politics, and decided to move on to more interesting things...I got a dog! I found him on the internet; he was being advertise as a pure breed Shiz Tzu, and yet, they were giving him away free! So I decided to check it out, and it turns out the poor guy was born with only 3 legs. I immediately fell in love with him, and knew I had to have him. Thankfully, I was the first one to make the call, and so I got him! We had to drive for 4 hours both ways, to get him, but the trip was worthwhile. He is such a great puppy! We named him Levi, and he is almost 9 weeks old. What he lacks in leg, he fills with love and enthusiasm; it is incredible to see him running or skipping behind my children, who absolutely adore him. His little tail wags uncontrollably as soon as he sees any one of us, and he's only been with us a week! He is so full of love! I cannot imagine what would've happened if no one wanted him. The breeder told me that usually, dogs that are born with any defect are put to sleep, because they can't get any money from them. Luckily for this little guy, the breeder prefered to give him away than to put him to sleep, and for that I am thankful. He is so beautiful and smart; already learned to use the training pads, and we've had very little "accidents" with him. He loves the children, and what makes me so glad to have gotten him is that he gives unconditional love to a little girl needing just that.
Last Friday (August 15) my children woke up, and as soon as they did, the nagging and complaining began; because they were hungry, they wanted to go to the pool, they didn't want to brush their teeth, yada!! yada!!.....sigh! And so began my day, just like any other day. As I am getting busy in the kitchen fixing their breakfast, Adrian asks me, like he always does, every single morning: " Mom, what day is today?" - So, like I always do, I said "today is Friday baby" - He turned to look at me and tells me: " but Friday is supposed to be your birthday" I just looked at him and smiled. His eyes got open wide, and he squeeled: "today is your birthday" !!! And all of a sudden dissapeared. As usual he went running to his big sister to give her the news.
As the morning went by, I noticed Tiffany was too quiet, so I went to check up on her, and saw her very busy doing something in her room. Occassionally, she would come by to ask for paper, or scissors, and even string??
Just before noon she came into my bedroom with an accomplished look on her face. She said: "Happy Birthday Momma (that's how she likes to call me, I don't know why), I made something for you" She then handed me her masterpiece, what she had been quietly working on all morning long. I already had my suspicions that she was making a b-day card; so I smiled and decided to read it and "over react" with surprise and happiness, just to see her delighted face while I did so. But this time, she really caught me by surprise...
It was a six page, handmade book; all of the pages attached with string!! It was a beautifully decorated book, that had a picture on side of each page, and written text on the other side. A compilation of sorts of all the reasons why she loves me. I was in shock and amazement. She is a very creative and skilfull little artist, but her sincerity and effort blew me away this time. It is by far, the best b-day gift I have ever received. I want to share what Tiffany wrote on each page of her book:
Page 1 - Mom, I love you cuz you are like a super hero to me!!
Page 2 - Mom, I like about you that you make some good pancakes, that are sooo good. I love that about you!!
Page 3 - Mom, I love about you that you take us to the pool!
Page 4 - Mom, I like it when you smile at me, it makes me feel special! ( this one is my favorite)
Page 5 - Mom, you are the best!!!
Page 6 - drawing of the whole family at the beach....
As my eyes filled with tears, I realized that - It's little things like these that make it all worth while. It made me realize that to someone, I am very special and appreciated even if they don't say it often. As I hugged her and kissed her, I thanked her for her beautiful gift, and for making feel so special and happy on that day.
It's moments like these that I appreciate the life I've been given; they give me a boost, a jump start to go on living another year of a very special, little someone's life.
Ever since I heard the news of my friend's death, I've done nothing except mourn her loss. Most of it triggered by guilt. I was torturing myself thinking about what I could have done different, why didn't I do more? And was in constant regret for not having the courage to seek my friend out during her ordeal to tell her how much I loved her. It was affecting my whole life; my children were stressed to see their mom crying all the time, my husband perplexed because he couldn't understand why I wanted her alive after all the pain and suffering she was going through, and my body suffered because I had even stopped sleeping. I prayed to G-d for forgiveness. But the guilt wouldn't go away! The pain of her loss either. Yesterday, I wrote without reservations everything I was feeling; I let it all out; hence the reason why the story Loosing a friend seems to be very emotional. Right after I finish writing (and crying my eyes out), I decided to pick up a book that has been laying around my bookshelf for quite some time. It was, as if, it was calling out to me; I say that because I am actually reading another book right now, and never planned to read anything else until I was finished with that one. But I listen to my "instintcs", (I call it instincts because I dare not call it something else) and went into a quiet spot of my home and started reading the Introduction of this particular book that had "called out to me".
By the middle of the reading I was already very interested in the subject. Little did I know that what I was about to read would change my whole perspective and bring such a surprising reaction to my mind, spirit and soul. The author was speaking on a completely unrelated subject, but decided to use a peculiar analogy as an example to prove his point. It was that analogy that he used, what changed everything for me; to my surprise it dealt exactly with my own personal issues, doubts and regrets. If you read my previous blog Loosing a friend you would understand my point.
I want to share with everyone what my eyes were reading, my brain registering, and my soul receiving. It began my healing process....
This is what I read -
'Consider this analogy. When we are first becoming acquainted with another person, recognition of that person is based on physical appearance. Lacking any experience with the thoughts and feelings of the new acquaintance, we have no firmly grounded expectations. We may have hopes and fears concerning the new person who has come into our lives, but we do not yet have trust.
As time passes and the relationship grows, we begin to know our new friend's mind and heart. We begin to "see" this person with our spiritual eyes as well as our physical senses. This may take place over a period of years. We may see our friend every day, or perhaps only less frequently, but once the relantionship has passed a certain point face-to-face contact becomes less important. Long separations may take place with no effect on the relationship. We may miss seeing our friend, but this is really the absence of a physical experience, because in truth we are deprived only at the level of our physical senses. The emotional and spiritual bond that has formed is not affected by absence, because it exists beyond the dimension of physical experience. Our friend's mind and heart remains interwoven with our own, unchanged.
Excerpt from the book - The Essential Zohar
by: Rav P.S. Berg
After reading this I realized. Our friendship never changed; we had been separated by time and distance yes, but that was only in the physical aspects of the relationship. Our frienship existed beyond time and space, it existed in the heart....and that had never been altered.
And now the healing begins......
Happy Birthday Priscilla! What an awesome birthday gift! To be with the Holy One; whole and complete.
Priscilla, my sister, my friend...I thank the Holy One for the privilege of having been part of your life.
Even, as brief as it was. Prisci, I loved you so much my dear friend. How many wonderful memories we had; but now they only provoke in me sadness and melancholy. Priscilla, thank you for opening the doors to your heart open wide, thank you for your love and trust, for the beautiful memories, our happy moments of laughter and joy, and for our sad moments as well, that kept us together. Prisci, you were always a great example to my life; it didn’t matter how much suffering, betrayals, and loss you suffered, you always maintained a positive and happy attitude. Your strength amidst adversity served as an inspiration and strength to my own life. I was always amazed by your joy and happiness. The image of your smile will be forever engraved in my memory. Priscilla, I am so sorry that I could not see you one last time. Writing this note is a miserable and failed attempt to repay for the absence and the distance, it serves only as one last good bye from the depths of my soul. Prisci, although I receive comfort by the fact that you no longer suffer, that your courage and bravery won this fight, and that right now you are in Heaven with the Holy One; I confess that this fastidious and existential humanity on mine, selfishly wants to be able to have another chance to see you alive to tell you how much I loved you face to face. Sadly, we can never control Life, only G-d knows the last minutes of our lives; my only choice is to remember you as you were, and hope to see you again someday. On Saturday the 16th of August 2008, we all lost a great friend, a sister, a fighter, and a champion….but Heaven gained a beautiful soul. It was on that day, we all suffered and mourned for your loss….it was that same day that in Heaven, HaShem and His Hosts celebrated with joy and happiness the arrival of a beautiful and precious soul. Priscilla, my sister, my friend...I thank the Holy One for the privilege of being part of your life. Prisci, I love you, I loved you, and will Always Love You…and hope with all my heart that one day I will see your beautiful smile again.
Written Sunday, August 17th, 2008 in Spanish. Read at the Funeral on Monday, August 18th, 2008.
My birthday is August 15. That means last Friday I was celebrating my 36th birthday. I did nothing out of the ordinary; it was a quiet and uneventful day. My husband got back from work with a dozen red roses, and later took me out to dinner. I went to Shul the next morning (August 16th) for our Shabbat service and practically spent the day there. That night after we arrived home, and Shabbat was over, I decided to check my emails, and my Facebook page, as usual.
The next thing I saw would stay in my memory for the rest of my life. I found several emails, all giving me the news that my friend had passed away.
Her name was Priscilla, tomorrow would have been her 39th birthday, and just as beautiful as her name, so was she. I knew her since childhood, but we really became close friends, 13 years ago, while working at the same TV Station. It wasn't love at first sight; she intimidated me, she would always seem serious and unfriendly. Even though I knew her for years, I never dared approach her, thinking she didn't like me. I do not recall how it happened, but all of a sudden, we became best friends. Priscilla turned out to be the strongest yet sweetest person I ever knew in my life; she had lived a lifetime by her early twenties already. She had been painfully betrayed during her first marriage, lost her mother, and had to live on her own while taking care of her estranged brother's daughter. One thing that always amazed me about her, was the fact that no matter how hard life was treating her, she always had a possitive attitude, a beautiful smile, and great hopes for the future. She became an inspiration to my life....
After a couple of years of being the greatest of friends, I found love. I immediately asked her to be my bridesmaid, and she happily said yes! Yet, the day of the wedding came and she never showed up. Turns out, she had a wardrobe malfunction at the last minute and was too heartbroken to tell me. I remember it like if it was still today, as soon as I saw her after my honeymoon was over, I hugged her and kissed her, and assured her I was never upset at her. She was my friend! My best buddy! How could I get angry?
Time passed and I dedicated myself more and more to my husband and family, and less time to my friend; as time passed, she found other great friends to keep her company and fill her life with joy and happiness in the midst of so much hardship and suffering.
It was 6 years ago since I had last seen my friend Priscilla. I quit my job, went back to College, and later dedicated myself to homeschooling. She lived in Puerto Rico, and I live in Florida; in short, we lost communication.
Last January, I received the visit of good friends from my old job at the TV Station; to my horror I heard the news of Priscilla's illness. She had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was during that turmoil in her life that she also found love...or love found her....
She married a wonderful young man, who promised to take care of her, even while knowing she ill. Marriage seemed to work wonders on her at first, and her cancer went into remission. By the end of last year, things seemed to get better and better, and to make things more perfect she finally hears the news she had been waiting for her whole life - Congratulations! You're pregnant! ...I can just imagine her laughter and beautiful smile at the moment she heard that news!
Sadly, life never seemed to treat her fair, and soon Priscilla was also facing another hard truth; her cancer had spread to her brain; the doctors found a malignant tumor behind one of her eyes, a location where it is impossible to operate. Again, she had to face the horror of losing someone, this time her own baby due to the Chemotherapy.
I always checked on her, and would ask friends about her health and progress. Some days the news were comforting, some days the news were terrifying. But I never seemed to have the courage of speaking directly to her...I was afraid to approach her at such a delicate timing; what would I say? What would she do? Will she let me in, or would she turn me away?
I was stupid enough to think that she might actually be unhappy to hear from me, after all those years of silence. So I resorted to only sending her messages of comfort and hope through my friends...what a coward I was! what a pathetic way of showing I cared!
On August 15, as I was having a nice dinner at a restaurant with my husband and children, Priscilla was asking her husband to take her to the hospital. She could not take it anymore, the pain and suffering were more than her strong willed body, mind, and soul could bear.
She was able to say good bye to the love of her life...and on Saturday, she gave away her soul and spirit to the Creator.
What had I done! I was such a coward, an irresponsible friend, and now she was gone! How can I let her know how much she meant to me, how can I tell her what a great inspiration she had been to my life, how could I tell her now that I loved her with all my heart!?
I never did it when I had the chance, and now, it is too late for me to do what I should've done. I do know for sure, now of course, that if I had made that call, I would not have been turned away, I would have been received with the same joy she always did while she was my friend. I do not consider myself to have been her friend at all, I failed at that job miserably. I do consider her to be MY friend, she always was, and she will always be.....
I did write her a good bye letter that was read at her funeral. But that was just a pathetic attempt to reconcile my own conscience, dealing with my own guilt.
Lesson learned here?
We CANNOT take our LIFE nor our FRIENDS for granted. Because you never know for how long you are going to have either...