Responsa

Wow!!!

I have never received as much response to a blog as my last one “On Death.” When I went out, the first four people I met said that they had read my blog and were very moved by it. Below, I have selected a very few of the responses that I received by email.

But first, a bit of business. A number of you told me that they forwarded my blog to friends. If those friends want to subscribe, they can do so either through MailChimp or by emailing me directly at howarda72@gmail.com. I have long passed the limit on numbers below which I could distribute the blog at no cost to myself. There is now a cost, but it is small. Once paid, there is no additional cost for including many more subscribers. Past blogs are posted under Howard Adelman on WordPress.  

One reflection. I often say that I write primarily to clarify and express my own thoughts to and for myself. Though that may be true, I think it is also misleading. For I have taken so much delight in the responses to my last blog, that the pleasure and instruction my blog gives to others must have much more importance for me than I seem to grant heretofore. Thank you for them. They really fill me with pride.

Ten selected responses follow:

Your blog today was moving and poignant. I forwarded it to two friends who recently lost parents. It resonated very much with them.

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Thanks Howard, for sharing your heart, your thoughts and beliefs on this experience of being at your brother’s bedside.  It is so important that we talk about these experiences and our feelings and our beliefs about a subject that so many of us seem afraid to address, despite encountering it so often these days.  Once a week I am at a hospice, talking with ill people, and being in their presence is a privilege.  

I will save this writing.

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Good to see you online. Life Visiting my mom today, I read most of your blog to her. She totally agrees with you. It was very cathartic for her. Old grief surfacing, but in a healthy way. Thank you.

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May your love for your brother deepen as you live through your prayers.

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Thank you for you blog. A belated condolence to you on the death of your brother Stan. I knew him briefly through a friend of mine whom he had dated a few years back. We spent some time together in New York.  I recollect your brother as a feisty, well-read, maverick sort of guy with a wonder lust for travel. He most certainly danced to his own unique drummer.

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You were…celebrating and remembering your brother Stan and experiencing his shiva with family and friends. It sounds as though it was – as it was for me – helpful, even therapeutic. I love the concept of shiva and how it eases the first, most difficult week. I have grieved for my parents since they died (in a car accident) in 1985. 

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I have never given much thought to what grievance itself meant – but accepted both the pain of their loss – missing them and also welcoming the frequent triggers that whip up specific memories. 

Anyways, rambling on a bit. Apologies. 

Thanks again for sharing your experience and insights.  All good wishes

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May his memory always be for a blessing.

Canadian novelist, Helen Humphreys, wrote Nocturne, a love letter to her brother who was lost to cancer. I think this book might resonate with some of your experiences. It has been a comfort to me as our family presently navigates the decline of my two brothers.

C.S. Lewis’ book on grieving was likewise useful to me when my father died. As I was saying kaddish. I was in the twilight zone with the latter death, but the fog eventually lifted. 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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Thank you, Howard, even in your grief, for sharing your beautiful gift of being able to put the most profound and personal thoughts into words…words that certainly resonate with me and the recent loss of friends and family.

I am so sorry I was away and unable to visit during shiva. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. That phrase now sounds so hackneyed, but it’s what we’ve got and is sincere.

May your dear brother’s memory – the bells – be for a blessing.

Warm regards.

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1.       It would be worth thinking about what we’d be doing differently if we were granted eternal life.  In what ways does our certainty of the finality of life influence our decisions, thoughts, aspirations, actions?  What sense of time would we have without this certainty?  What sense of commitment to people or causes?  Would some of us even care to live a life well lived without knowing that there is an expiration date, albeit not printed on the product?  Death is an important aspect of life and not the opposite of it. 

2.       My other issue is that even in countries where there are more or less liberal laws re: assisted suicide, you usually need several doctors’ attests to the fact that you have an incurable disease bringing unbearable suffering to you, before you are granted the dignity to go whenever you are ready.  Why do you need to justify to others, by others, this most deliberate decision a sovereign individual can make to end their life?  We extol the inalienable right to our freedom and the pursuit of happiness, but we do not grant individuals the dignity of ending their lives equally freely, whenever they decide, regardless of their reasons.  You are forced to beg for mercy, to depend on total strangers for their permission, and in some cultures, you are even considered a criminal for attempting to end your life and might be penalized after a botched attempt.  Your life does not belong to the doctors, the tax man, the employer, or the family.  It is yours to maintain or to dispose of it as you see fit.  And please do not come with the usual Phil 101 arguments about the slippery slope of misused assisted suicide for self-serving reasons.  That is not assisted suicide but murder, most selfish.  Even mourning the dearly departed itself is self-centered: we, who are left behind, are coping with the loss we have suffered instead of selflessly agreeing with the deceased’s most solemn wish.  I am not pleading for a misuse of assisted suicide in any form by another, but for the individual’s inalienable right to end the spectacle, without having to pacify the world with reasons deemed acceptable by others. My pain over losing you cannot override your wish to end it all. 

Th last two blogs were published online with the help of Alex Zisman.

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