Tuesday, October 20, 2009

remembering Joyce...

Last Thursday, I received one of those phone calls that no one ever wants to experience... one of those phone calls that begins with "I'm calling with really horrible news"... My former co-worker and friend, Joyce, took her own life last week to the shock of everyone who knew her. I had no idea that she was having medical issues, but I understand that she was in pain and most likely found out that she had cancer. That's when she weighed her options, and apparently decided that suicide was her best bet. On Sunday, I attended a beautiful memorial service in her honor. I just wanted to write some about her life and who she was to me.

It is always amazing to hear people speak at a memorial service. I didn't think that I knew Joyce that well because we only worked together for a couple years, but as her close friends and family stood and spoke about her, I realized that many things they said about her rang true to the Joyce that I knew as well.

She had an intense personality (and made no apologies for it either). At first it was intimidating, but then it was just Joyce. She was an "in-your-face" type: 100% outgoing, 100% Brooklyn... (I find it ironic that I will soon be moving to Brooklyn, which is where Joyce was from). It is also ironic that Joyce was completely capable of being private with her own life, but yet she would ask anybody anything at anytime, whether they were a friend or someone who had just walked into the store that we worked in together. She was personal (perhaps too personal at times), but you just had to get used to that coming from her. You came to expect that, at some point or another, she would ask you something that no one else dared to ask...

She had strong opinions and did not hesitate to share them. She was dead set against coffee, so I stopped drinking it around her. She hated cigarettes, but liked cigars. She's the only adult I know that would down a jar of baby food as a snack. She ate only organic food, she wore 100% cotton clothes... she was eccentric to say the least. She talked faster, walked faster, and drove faster than anyone I've ever known.

If there was one thing that Joyce and I had in common, it was our love for books and reading. She helped me get through Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Plato's Republic for philosophy classes. She had a gift for teaching (and mothering) and tutoring those younger than herself. I was not at all surprised to hear that she had regularly helped her nieces with their homework and helped them study over the phone. To quiz people was one of her favorite things: she tested me with the information I needed to know, whether it was for work or for an exam at school. And I would have to admit, I probably paid attention (and learned) more because I knew she would test me!

It was Joyce whom I first met outside the Judaica store when I went for my interview with the manager, Joyce who asked me after that infamous Purim play, "So who's the guy who played the King? He's good-looking, right?" (I married that King), and Joyce who advised me that I should only be feeding my baby daughter organic foods (and I took her advice as long as I could afford to!) It's difficult to see how much impact and influence a person has on your life until they are taken out of your life... I pray that I made as much of an impression on her life as she did upon mine. I will most certainly never meet anyone like Joyce, but I am hopeful that perhaps I will meet someone who shares some of her qualities: her genuine concern and interest in people, her intelligence, her sense of humor, her eccentricity.

She was a beautiful expression of G-d's creativity, and she will be dearly missed by many.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

we're moving...

Just wanted to post that my family and I will be moving to Brooklyn, NY by the first of January 2010, so if I don't have the time to write anything until after then, you'll know why! Keep us in your prayers! My husband will be pursuing his Master's Degree at the Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies.

Friday, October 2, 2009


"Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, who separated between the holy and secular, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six days of labor. Blessed are You, Hashem, who separates between the holy and secular." (From the Siddur for Havdalah)

Although I've read this at the conclusion of every shabbat for months now, it has never been more real to me than it is right now. The Siddur precedes this prayer with the words, "may the distinction between the holiness of Shabbat and the secular nature of the weekdays guide me to appreciate the other differences that exist in His universe." Brought to mind lately are the stark contrasts that exist in the world. Sometimes when we see G-d for who He is, we are taken back by the starkness of reality compared to what G-d deems important. When we see the chasm that sometimes exists between the desires of our hearts and G-d's, it is jarring to say the least. As the "repentance mood" of the Ten Days of Awe and Yom Kippur transitions to the "rejoicing mood" of Sukkot (Tabernacles), I am amazed at the stark contrast between G-d's reality and ours. Transitions and changes (sometimes big changes) are necessary, for G-d oftentimes uses circumstances and changes to change us. Oftentimes it the only way that He can get our attention in this chaotic society in which we live. Oftentimes He must speak louder than words...

There is a difference between the secular and the holy, between darkness and light, between closeness and connectedness, between brazenness and brokenness, between silence and stillness, between contempt and contentment... between us and G-d... and it can be stark. Thankfully, G-d has not given up on us yet! He disciplines and corrects us, he gives and He takes away, but He is never far from us. In fact, He is with us. During this celebration of Sukkot, the stark reality is that we have a long way to go, but also that He has shown us the way to get there......... and when we get there, He will be there too.

Sukkot is a time to remember several things: G-d's provision and deliverance, that He is with us and we will someday be with Him, and that all is vanity aside from Him. As we look forward to reading Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), we are reminded that the things we hold so dear are really not that important........ that G-d sometimes causes change and causes us to leave people and places and things, but those that are really important actually come with us: our husbands, our children, and our G-d. During Sukkot, we are meant to get a taste of what it is like to have nothing so that we understand what is really important, and adjust our priorities likewise.

So, like King Shlomo (Solomon), let us come to the conclusion that what really matters is to "fear
G-d and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For G-d will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." -Ecclesiastes 12:13-14