We live in an age where medical science allows our hearts to beat longer than the rest of our body can cope with.
It is a mixed blessing.
The obligation of honouring parents, deemed by the Rabbis of the Talmud as the heaviest of all the Mitzvot, has never been more challenging. Aged grandparents, great-grandparents even, have expectations of being cared for by their adult children that the adult children struggle to fulfil. The financial drain of providing ‘good enough’ care is intense. And it is not even as if unlimited financial and other resources solve every problem. The sheer frustration of no longer being able to do what we once did cuts at the very heart of our sense of self, especially when we have to face these challenges without our life-partner. These are lonely truths to face and my sense is that they are rarely faced honestly. Too often we prefer unspoken expectation, un-uttered resentment and pretence to honesty and compassion.
In my work as Rabbi I encounter these strains all the time. It is the greatest pastoral challenge of my work at New London and I believe the greatest pastoral challenge facing our generation.
These are days for honesty and the reality of our mortality is the biggest taboo we hide behind. These are the biggest lies we tell ourselves and those we love. Al Cheit Shechatati – for the sin I have sinned …
I don’t want to think about my decrepitude. None of us do. I would much rather pretend that I will live forever, never needing help, never having to cut into my own independence to care for one I love.
But these are days for honesty.
If we can steel ourselves there are enormously important conversations we can have, should have, before the gates close.
How much do we hide behind the pretence that we will live, in full health, forever?
How do we hold love when relationships, forged at a time of bodily vigour become dependent and uneven?
What expectations do we have of our own futures as carers and as those who need or will need caring for?
This is the work of this season.
I commend it to us all, before the gates close.
G'mar Chatimah Tovah to all