I Asked For Wonder

Rabbi Heschel


I Asked For Wonder is also the title of one my most read books, by one of my greatest heroes, an authentic 20th C. Mystic, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. It’s reported by his personal assistant and editor, Samuel H. Dresner, that upon regaining consciousness after a near fatal heart attack that Rabbi Heschel told him:
“Sam, when I regained consciousness, my first feelings were not of despair or anger. I felt only gratitude to God for my life, for every moment I have lived. I was ready to depart. ‘Take me Oh Lord’, I thought, I have seen so many miracles in my lifetime.”
After a brief pause, he continued:
“That is what I meant when I wrote ‘I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you have given it to me.”

I made the same request. And it has been only recently that I’ve realized that the request had been granted long before I ever asked. For as long as I can remember I’ve ‘wondered’. Sometimes it’s been along the lines of “what the _ _ _ _ ?!!”. But, for the most part, it’s been experiences of awe-filled amazement and speechless-ness at the beauty, complexity, and mystery of the inter-relationship of all things.

This gift of Wonder has led me on a great adventure through This Life, and has brought me to this place, and to this website. This site is about Dying…AND Living. It’s intended to provide information about what’s involved in dealing with ‘end-of-life’ issues for the individual, care-givers, and society. I can’t really speak about Death because I don’t have a conscious memory of death. But, I do anticipate (and want to be prepared for) The Last Great Experience of my life. And, with this site, I hope to provide information, stimulate curiosity, and to inspire appreciation, acceptance, and respect for the end of our lives by living every moment creating the story we want to leave behind when this life ends, as it surely will.

Back to “I Asked For Wonder”: Sam continues…
“Was it possible to accept death so easily? Death. Faceless Enemy, fearsome monster who devours our days, confounds the philosopher, silences the poet, and reduces the mighty to offering their gold, in vain, for yet another hour! Was [Rabbi Heschel] telling me not to sorrow overmuch, thinking of my feelings when he was moving toward the end of all feelings? Suddenly, there rang in my mind the striking passage with which he had concluded his first major work, “Man Is Not Alone”.

“The deepest wisdom man can attain is to know that his destiny is to aid, to serve…. This is the meaning of death: the ultimate self-dedication to the divine. Death so understood will not be distorted by the craving for immortality, for this act of giving away is reciprocity on man’s part for the gift of life.”

And herein is the Big Question: Is it possible to accept death so easily? This is what I hope this website helps us to explore. In addition to the spiritual/mystical dimensions of dying, death, and living, I hope to provide some good resources regarding medical decision-making, what various illnesses and treatments really look like, care-giving, etc. and all of these explored within the context of our rapidly changing U.S. culture, the geographical dispersion of our families, during the aging and dying of my generation.

Now tell me, can you imagine? do you even want to think about what it’s going to be like when all the Children of Baby Boomers, and the Grandchildren of Baby Boomers are responsible for the care of their increasingly frail and dependent elders? Whether individually, or as a society, this time is here.

With open hearts and minds, these can really be some very fun, yet challenging, discussions. So here’s my disclaimer: my bias regarding the answer to “the Big Question” is “Yes, it is possible to accept death so easily.”

This being my Retirement Project, I’m really putting myself ‘out there’, exposing my own private journey along the way. I do hope you will join me in preparing for The Last Great Adventure of This Life.

10/30/2017 – The “One Year To Live Experiment”, after five years, has concluded. You’re invited to ask questions.

Would love to hear from you!

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