Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
I borrowed this title from a movie I saw recently, vintage 1956, starring Jane Wyman and Van Johnson. It was both moving and heart wrenching. It was nostalgic and timely. It was all these things and more.
The saying goes that art imitates life and that is true in most instances. One thing is for sure, movies can make you feel glad and at the same time make you feel sad. It is like life. We have moments of ecstasy and in an instant we can become despondent. We are designed to withstand euphoria and disappointment; it’s built into the system. Sometimes, however, the system breaks down and we can’t discern one from the other.
The one emotion that can carry us through dark days and helps us rejoice when there is light is called love. It works in mysterious ways. Our hearts can be filled with unimaginable happiness. When we love someone and are loved in return we enter into the realm of divine fulfillment.
But then the worst happens and we lose someone we love and that hurt is too much to bear. We try to reach for some magical occurrence that will bring back our love so that the hurt will go away and our feelings of happiness return. We remember the bliss of an embrace, the thrill of a kiss, the orgasmic expression of love’s completion, the birth of a child.
The days and nights are empty now. The touching and reaching are beyond our grasp. The marvel of a smile or a gleam in an eye seems so distant as if they were never really there at all. It is such a lonely sensation. Tears, like falling rain, fill our eyes and roll down our cheeks. Sometimes we cry uncontrollably and our body trembles. It is so awful. We are so desolate.
The respected poet-philosopher, Noah ben Shea, tells the following story:
Once there was a student who was with a teacher for many years. And when the teacher felt he was going to die, he wanted to make even his death a lesson.
That night, the teacher took a torch, called his student, and set off with him through the forest.
Soon they reached the middle of the woods, where the teacher extinguished the torch, without explanation.
“What is the matter?” asked the student.
“This torch has gone out,” the teacher answered and walked on.
“But,” shouted the student, his voice plucking his fear, “will you leave me here in the dark?”
“No! I will not leave you in the dark,” returned the teacher’s voice from the surrounding blackness. “I will leave you searching for the light.”
Such is the path we should take when we lose a loved one. During their lifetime they gave us light, the light of hope and completion. They lit our path so that we could experience fulfillment. And when that light is extinguished, it is not really gone because the flame that burned our passion is now embedded in our heart for all time. That is called memory.
Memory will not replace the intensity of the joy but it will enable us to embrace the very depth of understanding and realization that without the love that was shared there can be no memory and memory guarantees immortality. Memory is the next step in the thrillful journey of life.
Sorrow is the rain and the drops remind us of the tears we shed and the miracle is that our affliction will be washed away together with the sadness allowing us to begin a new day filled with sunshine and a life yet to be lived. This is the legacy that was left to us and we leave others; that the next generation and the next will be able to share what we had and make it into what they now have.
To have loved and to be loved is a miracle whether in the rain or in the clear skies that dry up our tears. We must continue because that is the true miracle of life.