Of life and death

What’s the point of it all? What’s the purpose? Is there a point? Maybe it’s all just random and meaningless, and not the result of some great Divine plan.

Jewish tombstone 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Jewish tombstone 370
(photo credit: reuters)
At the age of 50 and with no prior warning, my cousin Yuval died. Just like that, in the middle of a workday, in the middle of life, he simply fell over dead. Although he wasn’t a teenager, neither was he an old man. This past Friday, two years later, we gathered in the pouring rain, for the memorial service. Aunt Olga, Yuval’s grief-stricken elderly mother, was unable to attend the service, just as she had been unable to attend the funeral. Yuval’s handsome and strong son, who recently completed his tour of duty in one of the elite units, recited Kaddish, slowly and with a steady voice.
AT THE time of his death, before he became past tense, Yuval had a few decades of marriage, children and work behind him, then a few more decades of another marriage, grandchildren-- and more work still before him. He had a good sense of humor; if he’d been told how we was going to go, he’d have died laughing. At the funeral, his talented daughter revealed a unique sensitivity.
Caressing the shrouded body, she poured out beautiful, heartfelt words, without a hint of the usual platitudes so often heard at such times. The widow cried out, and he was lowered into the ground and covered.
In playwright Anat Gov’s case, the awareness of her approaching death and the settling of affairs down to the tiniest detail, were chilling. Such a transition, with acute awareness right to the end, from being fully here to fully gone, is as cruel as nature itself. But it does allow for farewells to be made, and circles to be closed. There are no loose ends, nothing left unsaid, no feelings unexpressed. With Yuval, death came suddenly, in the blink of an eye. First he was there, and a moment later he was gone.
No parting words, no arrangements, no preparations.
THERE ARE those who say we should enjoy ourselves as much as possible, while we can, since we don’t know how much time we have left. There are others who say we must utilize our time to fulfill as many mitzvot as possible, that we all come into the world with our own deeds to accomplish, and then leave.
But what’s the point of it all? What’s the purpose? Is there a point? Maybe it’s all just random and meaningless, and not the result of some divine plan.
I don’t know the answer and I look at those who think they do, with a mixture of jealousy and pity.
However, regardless of whether there is a divine plan or not, doing good for your family and society, and giving of your love abundantly to those close to you seems like the right thing to do. If there is a plan, realizing the potential that exists in every one of us is likely a big part of it. Is there anything sadder than the death of a child; the loss of what might have been. What we don’t have doesn’t cause us sorrow, but rather what we feel we could have had: the love lost, the career that never took off, and the dreams unfulfilled.
To achieve the possible is the special path of nature – the seed sprouts, the bud blossoms, the fruit ripens. Birth after pregnancy, dreams becoming reality.
My cousin Yuval used to spend vacations with us when we were children. We were friends our entire lives. He was a successful lawyer, a painter and a sculptor.
Now he simply was.