Sunday, July 29, 2012

Three Weeks


How Can We Know?

Tisha B'Av, the 9th of Av, ends the three week period of mourning for the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem.  Josephus gives us an eye witness account which is so excruciating we cannot fathom the despair of our people in that time.  Reading about the destruction is heart-wrenching.  We even cry.  But there is no connection between the reading of it and the living of it.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

To Say "No"...


...Can Be A Gift?...

"We want all of our favorite songs, even twinkle," said the couple.  

"No problem... especially with twinkle.  Mozart has a lovely theme and variations on this simple tune," said I.  The bride and groom had just signed the contract to engage my ensemble to perform the music for their wedding.  With a non-refundable down-payment to save the date, we all shook hands and made arrangements for the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner.  This was going to be a beautiful season.  But, somewhere between the handshakes and a month later the ground shifted.

Both bride and groom were medical residents. Their work lives became overwhelmingly busy.  The bride's mother was not pleased and in her displeasure pronounced an ultimatum.  If the couple had not finished with certain wedding  details within the next two weeks then she and the bride's eldest brother were taking over everything.  Can you imagine what happened?  Two weeks later, nothing had happened and the promised "coup d'etat" was a "fait accompli"... meaning the bride's mother and brother were now in charge.  

I knew nothing of this until the phone call.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Sweater...


...On Your Shoulders
(Thirty-six Years Ago)

"It's chilly today," said the old lady.  

"Not too much, it is a nice day," I replied.  We were sitting next to each other on the bench waiting for our bus at the central bus station in Jerusalem.  

"You should wear that sweater, honey," instructed the old lady.

"I'm fine."

"It's chilly today," she repeated.

"Do you know me? Because I do not know you.  You are not my grandmother," an annoyed me responded. 

"True, but I could be.  Who are your grandmothers?  I might know them."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pulse of Life



We learned in the Vietnam War that an injured healthy, young man could have a hemoglobin level of three or four and still be asymptomatic as long as he was well hydrated.  And so, we understand how important water is to our functional selves.  But in another place, another time, and definitely other circumstances even a hemoglobin level of eight is not allowed.  For a woman with advanced breast cancer on the eve of starting a phase one clinical trial treatment plan that requires a hemoglobin level of nine or more the only answer is a blood transfusion... two units.

The color red is a symbol for life in many cultures... It makes sense.  The red blood gives us the pulse of life, literally.  I listened to the nurse explain the process.  Never before have I needed to rely on the kindness of strangers in such an intimate way.  The blood that pulsed through their vessels in their bodies will now do the same for me by the end of the day.  There are the pre-medications to allow everything to go smoothly.  There are the vital sign checks every fifteen minutes to confirm that all is well.  The nurse is very young but also very knowledgeable and dedicated.  She inspires confidence in me.  There is hope for this world when a twenty-two year old nurse with one year of working experience knows so much and does what must be done in such a humane as well as professional way.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Life Is With People...


The Messenger is the Message...

"Why did you leave the building?  You told me that the building has a salon and barber shop. There is no reason to leave the building if the services you need are already there."

These were my sister's words when she learned that our parents had taken themselves to the JCPenney Salon at the mall.  Our mother had been watching the people who used the salon and barber shop in their new assisted living apartment building.  

"Anna, everyone who goes in there comes out looking the same.  I don't want to look like your father."  

Sounds reasonable to me... I wouldn't want to look like Sam... Actually, I don't think that it is possible... Oy, my big sister... a good soul, a loving soul, a fearful soul...  She would lock our parents in a padded cell to keep them safe forever.  Most folks, however, want their freedom.