This website may not work correctly in Internet Explorer. We recommend switching to a more secure modern web browser such as Microsoft Edge which is already installed on your computer.

View this website in Edge.

HHDs sermon: A Wrinkle in Time – Yizkor 2023

Rabbi Allison RH Conyer

Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue

When I was a child, one of my favourite books was called “A Wrinkle in Time.” It’s the story about 3 children who travel through time to rescue their father from “the Dark Thing” on another planet. I loved the story because of the adventure, the young heroes, and because the children reunited with their father in the end.

Sadly, in real life, that does not always happen. In the past month alone, I’ve learned of a 15-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl, a 23-year-old young woman, and two men in their early 50’s who died suddenly over night with no explanation. No warning. Alive and vibrant one day. Gone the next.

I know of people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s who suffered for weeks, months, years, even decades fighting cancer, kidney failure, heart disease, fighting for life, while waiting for their number to be called. Some were ready to go and at peace in the end. Others were not.

Some preferred to be alone in the end, wanting to spare their loved ones of the memory of their withered bodies, etched forever in their minds, a shell of their former selves. They chose to meet their maker alone, for how could anyone bare witness and carry them through that moment?

Others preferred to be with loved ones, gathering their family around them while leaving this world, feeling surrounded by love, feeling grateful for the life they had lived and the goodness they were leaving behind to grow and thrive with their blessing.

There is no wrong or right at the end. There is no rhyme or reason for how or when we are called to our eternal resting places. And there is no coming back. Personally, I think the finality of death is the hardest to accept and live with. Whether we are angry that our loved one was taken too soon, or was forced to suffer, whether we are grateful for a quick death, albeit shocking, but avoiding the suffering, or whether we are philosophically at peace in knowing that all who live, must eventually die, we all still struggle with the finality of death.

Never again will we be able to touch their faces. Never again will we be able to hear their natural voices.

Never again will we be able to look into their eyes.

Never again will we be able to smell them when we get a hug or pick up their clothes.

Never again will we be able to hear their laugh or listen to their advice, their bad jokes or pearls of wisdom.

If only we could find a wrinkle in time and bring them back to us.

Even if, by some miracle, we managed to say everything we wanted to say before they were gone…even if we heard all that we needed to hear from them….it would never be enough.

What about all the things that have happened since they left us? All the new additions to the family, the birthdays, the b’nei mitzvah, the weddings, the sports games, the school concerts, the promotions at work or change of careers, the overwhelming feeling of loneliness – all the really challenging times when we really needed them with us, or the really incredible times that we really wanted to celebrate and share with them? What about the holidays they didn’t get to take? What about their own life experiences that were cut short without their permission? How do we find closure with that?!

We don’t. We can’t. Let’s not even try. The death of our loved ones will leave us forever with an open wound, an eternal reminder to care for them, to protect their memories, and to guard their life’s teachings to the best of our abilities. For their lives were but a wrinkle in time and we were blessed to have shared that time with them.

Although we may not be able to find complete closure with the death of our loved ones, we can move on. We can let go enough to experience untainted joy again. We can live our lives fully and completely, beyond the shadow of our loss, because a part of them will remain within us always. For they have touched our souls, leaving a permanent mark. Continuing on with our lives, experiencing joy and sadness, excitement and disappointment, allowing ourselves to grow and develop does not mean that we forgot them, or that we have left them behind.

On the contrary, the more fully we live our lives, allowing ourselves to feel the breadth of life’s experiences, the more we honour their lives. For their memories are there not to hold us back, but to propel us forward.

For in everything we do, we continue to be blessed because of all they have shared with us.

As I read in David Harkins’ poem last night:

[Our] heart[s] can be empty because [we] can’t see [them]
Or [we] can be full of the love that [we] shared
[We] can turn [our] back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or [we] can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
[We] can remember [them] and only that [they are] gone
Or [we] can cherish [thei] memory and let it live on
[We] can cry and close [our] mind, be empty and turn [our] back
Or [we] can do what [they] would want: smile, open [our] eyes, love and go on.

Find more Parashat Hashavua