“What if?” I asked myself as the pandemic began to impact all of our lives on a profound level.
“What if I or the people I know and love get sick? What if we have to enter the hospital alone?”
With the creation of the first human being in the Garden of Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” I have learned over the past three months that even those times when we have to face a medical facility alone, we are never alone — blessings abound.
In mid-June, I became one of the one in eight women to be diagnosed with breast cancer. My prognosis is excellent. I only needed minor surgery and the short course of radiation is behind me. I told just a handful of people because my family is large so we had enough daily check ins to sustain us, Chip is a great cook so we had enough food to nourish us, and I really had all the resources I needed to focus on my spirituality and my physical well-being.
I am blessed to have all I need so if you are reading this and feel compelled to do something for me, please look around and share with others what you would seek to share with me. There are people all around you struggling with the consequences of the pandemic and other trials who are in need of your loving support.
I write this blog just prior to Yom Kippur because sharing my truth is a value to which I have always held fast. I am grateful to be giving a healing drash for our upcoming Temple Beth El Yom Kippur Healing service and couldn’t imagine speaking about healing without sharing with you the context from which some of my insights into Jewish healing come.
Breast Cancer is now part of my story that I bring to my work in the world. From caring more deeply about health disparities that leave some people struggling far more profoundly due to inadequate healthcare, to caring even more compassionately for those facing health crises, to gratitude for the outstanding healthcare resources we have in Charlotte, to recognizing the power of faith in the midst of treatments and trying times, I can now speak not only from the experiences of having pastored congregants for 25 years through this journey but in having experienced just a small segment of the journey myself.
Medical tests can be scary. Surgery can be painful. Treatments can be challenging. Yet even when encountering the medical world alone in the midst of a pandemic, I was never alone. I had all of your voices of love, the lessons you have shared with me from your experiences of struggle, and the richness of Jewish song and prayer in my heart and soul. They grounded me especially in those moments where stillness of body was required. The Hebrew word malach means both “angel” and “messenger.” There were strangers (and even a good number of Jewish community members in the medical profession who have now become new friends or better friends), who inspired me and guided me through.
I would be remiss if I did not mention some of those resources that are there for those, whom even with a strong community around them, are overwhelmed by the pain of isolation. A lot of experts point to the pandemic’s insidious effect of amplifying senses of loneliness and depression for those who already were suffering. If that is you, please recognize the incredible support and solutions that Temple Beth El, Jewish Family Services, Mental Health America of Central Carolinas, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Charlotte all offer.
The “What If’s” of life and the pandemic can weigh us down with worry. Yet even when we have to face our fears, we realize that there are sources of strength all around us and within us.
Genesis was right, it is not good for man to be alone. But thankfully, we don’t have to be.
May we hope together. May we heal together. May we celebrate together.
Wishing all of you and the world (whose birthday we are celebrating) a happy and healthy 5781.