Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “September 2, 2011”

I HAVEN’T died on schedule.

I’ve been holding off on this one for a while, primarily because of my close friend, Rebecca, who passed away 10 days ago. But she, like so many, defied the doctors and statistics, to go on living far beyond what was expected of her.

“I haven’t died on schedule.” So begins a beautiful article by Mark Trautwein from San Francisco in The New York Times.

Mark Trautwein

I have now met a couple of people who have lasted longer than they thought, or rather than they were told by their doctors. My grandmother lasted several years more than anyone expected. Anyone, that is but her. She announced that she would see all her grandchildren have their barmitzvahs. Mine was still several years in the future and some in the family raised eyebrows. She passed away shortly after my barmitzvah – when she was ready, people said.

How do you live under such a cloud, a death sentence, really? Where do these people find the strength not just to survive, but live. My friend, Rebecca, lived her life in full until the end, helping people as she had all her life.

My heart is full of admiration for those people who live in such conditions. They seem so brave, so strong. I think how much the rest of us can learn from their example. Please take a moment to read the article. You can also follow Mark’s blog.

It has occurred to me that unless we are living under the same roof as that person, it is really difficult to keep their struggle in our minds or to normalize it. Probably, we only see them when they are feeling good, certainly not when they are having treatment or lying awake in the middle of the night. Often, they don’t want to dwell on their struggle when you visit, preferring to hear about your life (don’t your problems seem so insignificant at that moment?) or discuss what they crave for – normalcy.

Do you know someone who is fighting a life-threatening disease, illness etc.? Maybe it’s time to go round, hang out with them, be in the picture. If you can’t, give them a call. It’s Labor Day weekend coming up. You have time, not that you can measure time. Ask these people.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).


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