My childhood sweetheart is fighting for his life. While it is true that we have not spoken in many years, I have thought of him countless times, silently and sincerely wishing him success, love and joy in his life. Benjy and I were once in love... at age 12. For those of you who may not have been lucky enough to experience a young love such as this, let me tell you, there is nothing that compares to it. The innocence of that love, the intensity of feeling and the absolute absence of a future rarely survives the transition into adulthood, even into adolescence. And though we did date a bit on and off in high school and college, our relationship never lost the foothold that was firmly rooted in childhood.
Fast forward about 37 years, I have my life in Jerusalem and four children, he has his in Florida and three children. I learned a few days ago that he, like his sisters and mother, suffers from a genetic immunosuppressive disease that makes him vulnerable to infection and certain cancers. Benjy will turn 50 in December. He has already outlived his mother and sisters.
I feel a great deal of sadness and grief for this family I grew up with. When I contemplate the likelihood that the world will lose this great man, scientist, teacher, and damn good tennis player it is no less than tragic. But here, in this city on the edge I call my home, I live in a world where eternity is a given.
I learned from friends and parents of victims of terror that the loss of a child can result in the healing of thousands, and that the world of the spirit is a hair's breadth away. I learned from a trip to Poland that the modern state of Israel is a phoenix, born out of ashes to live again in splendor. I learn every day that death is not a choice, but fear - that is a choice.
Two weeks ago I stumbled upon a magnificent book, "Many Lives, Many Masters," by Dr. Brian Weiss. Published in 1988, this was a groundbreaking work by a reputable psychiatrist who, while treating a patient for an anxiety disorder with hypnosis, accidentally regressed her to a past life. The book relates Weiss's treatment spanning several months and about 12 of the 86 lifetimes Catherine had lived. Unbeknownst to Dr. Weiss, the transmigration of souls is actually a mainstream Jewish belief; we are, after all, the only religion based on national, not individual revelation. The Kabbalistic notion that we were all at Mount Sinai has become so mainstream that there is a popular dating site called sawyouatsinai.com. So, do I believe that souls are eternal? Absolutely. Do I believe that every lifetime provides us with myriad opportunities for spiritual lessons and growth? Yes. I also have come to understand that death is not final, but temporary; by allowing ourselves to have an ongoing relationship with the spiritual dimension, we gain access to limitless tools for managing loss and grief.
I am also certain that, just as "Catherine" recognized people from her current lifetime in every other life she revisited, so too are those I have connected to most deeply the souls I have cycled with before.
So, Benjy, do not be afraid. Those of us who have loved you in this lifetime, those of us who have benefited from your kindness and wisdom and still have so much more to learn from you, we will see you again very soon. I will pray for you that the next time be a little easier.