CREDOS : Gift in guise — II

After each experience, people would ask what it meant. Now someone was asking out of spiritual urgency. We looked at each other. I know what it does not mean, I told him. It was not a punishment. The calculus of reward and punishment is surely more complex than sin equals cancer. One thing is clear: the cancer is not only about you. Those who care for you suffer as well. The ripples do not end.

Facing our own mortality, the traditional roles had melted away. We were no longer rabbi and layperson, younger man and older man. I recalled how in the first verse of the Book of Kings, King David was no longer referred to by his title when he neared death: “Now the days of David drew near that he should die.” When we approach death we no longer can hide behind titles and status. The man and I were two people who had undergone similar ailments. One of us, for now, was in remission, and one of us would die before the other. And neither knew why.

He told me that it was not his own life he feared for, but what would happen to his family. How would his loss hurt them? I remembered how, as I was wheeled into surgery, I was surprised at how little I feared death; I feared the consequences of my death. I feared not for myself but for my wife and daughter. Did he believe in another world? He was not sure, but he hoped. I ventured that everything a human being was — the hopes and dreams, the love and gifts — could not completely disappear. —