Lesson Learned (September 23)


My Why

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Lesson Learned in the life Araceli and I lived comes from our love of wandering this wonderful world, enjoying the deep understanding that comes from matching place and philosophy. How ecstatic was the day we climbed down the cliff from Friedrich Nietzsche’s village to the Mediterranean Sea and back up. That was a walk that he undertook daily, leading him to philosophize: “Don’t trust an idea that has not come to mind while walking.” In my own life I adopted this philosophy of walking or jogging for most of my 73 years, considering my best thinking has been done on the open trail.

Now I have come to a new truism—keeping “my why” since Araceli has crossed the bar to Heaven in the Spring of 2021. For the rest of my days, I will focus on children as I have, continuing my service of over 10 years now as an elected member of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education. Of course, the pleasure of being an active grandfather to four wonderful granddaughters will be very much part of “my why”! Otherwise, how can I bear my pain from grief, suffering loss after more than 45 years of a blissful marriage.

All this sense of loss was compounded August 1, when Elizabeth Lillian Dante Cohen Pope died. For more than 50 years she and Dean Pope were united, including raising a fine son and now my outstanding son-in-law, Justin, who married our Maria, giving us two granddaughters, Aliza and Emilia. From “Nana” Liz’s prayer book I gain fodder for reflection:

IN MEMORY OF A WIFE

“Thy memory, dear companion of my life, now fills my soul. It revives in me the thought of the love, fidelity and self-denial which sweetened the days of my life. I treasure it in my heart and strive to become worthy of thee. Though death has summoned thee from my side, thine image still lives within me and continues to be an inspiration to me. May God have thee in His keeping and give thee bliss eternal! Amen.” (The Union Prayer Book for Jewish Worship, The Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1961)

“My why,” like a pencil sharpened in grade school prior to an examination, has been sharpened by my test that comes from my grief. Again, my lesson learned comes from “Nana Liz,” who had a lifetime role as a teacher. My chance to peruse her prayer book enriches my Soul:

CONCLUDING SERVICE FOR THE DAY OF

ATONEMENT

The sun goes down, the shadows rise,

The day of God is near its close;

The glowing orb now homeward flies,

A gentle breeze foretells repose.

Lord, crown our work before the night:

In the eve let there be light.

While still in clouds the sun delays,

Let us soar up, soar up to Heaven;

That love may shed its peaceful rays,

New hope unto our souls be given.

O may the parting hour be bright:

In the eve there be light.

And when our sun of life retreats,

When evening shadows ’round us hover,

Our restless heart no longer beats,

And grave-ward sinks our earthly cover,

We shall behold a glorious sight:

In the eve there shall be light. (Ibid.)

In my mind’s eye I remember 4-H Camp at Selbyville, Upshur County. This wonderful treasure operated by our Upshur County Commission in the widest valley of the upper reaches of the Buckhannon River, helps me with “my why.” Like the meditation for the Day of Atonement, I can recall Vespers as the sun sets. Ron Pugh plays “Taps” on his coronet, which I repeat on my trombone. And our combined brass instrumentation bounces off the hillsides in a cascading echo. Absolutely profound…

Day is done, gone the sun,

From the lake, from the hills, from the sky.

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

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