Your healthiest New Year’s Resolution? Get Screened for cancer!


COVID-19 caused many Americans to fall behind on screenings.
Getting back on track with regular screenings is essential
to finding cancer early and taking control of your health.
A message from Cancer Screen Week.


By HOWARD BROWN
Author of Shining Brightly

COVID knocked us all off schedule! That’s the nationwide consensus of healthcare providers. All of us need to share the news:

Cancer screening is your healthiest New Year’s resolution!

You can remind others simply by sharing a link to this column with friends and family via social media or email. See those social media sharing buttons at the top of this column? It’s so easy to spread this news.

We all can use this reminder, as a nation. That’s especially true of Americans from our all-too-often underserved minority communities.

If you really understand this challenge—perhaps your family already has struggled with cancer—then you’ll want to take a look at this amazing set of Resources provided for all of us for this year’s Cancer Screen Week. That page has colorful charts, posters and other social-media friendly resources you can share—including some options that highlight stories from minority communities.

As I’ve told the world in my memoir, Shining Brightly, a regular cancer screening saved my life. In fact, I wish I’d gotten around to asking for that screening years earlier. If I had scheduled that test just a few years earlier than I did, my struggle through surgeries and other agonizing treatments might have been avoided. Doctors might have found easily removable tissue, rather than the large tumor they spotted that led to years of treatments and a slow recovery.

Saving a life this way is sooo easy!

Just take a moment and check with your health-care provider. Today, there are easy ways to get screened, so don’t be afraid. After all: You want to enjoy the year-end holidays in 2023 with your loved ones, don’t you?

My New Year’s Resolution is to convince as many people as possible to get back on track with the regular screenings our doctors recommend.

And just maybe, if I’m good at my job as Cancer Screen Week’s Colorectal Cancer Ambassador, this year, I just might save a life or two.

And that will truly ensure a Happy New Year for countless friends and loved ones.

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Care to learn more?

This is a perfect moment to become one of Howard’s growing global community of friends by ordering your copy of his book.

Here are other articles we have published, exploring the launch of this book:

Take a look at the book’s Foreword: ‘Shining Brightly’ Foreword by Dr. Robert J. Wicks: ‘Learn anew about the American Dream’

And especially read this story: Two-time cancer survivor Howard Brown writes ‘Shining Brightly’ to encourage others to stay healthy

A Free Resource Guide

If you’re among the millions of Americans facing cancer, you’ll want to download a free-to-share resource guide from Shining Brightly:

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What am I thankful for this year? Millions of families like ours that don’t let disability keep anyone from the Thanksgiving table

What’s on your Thanksgiving To Do list?

Don’t forget the wheelchair!

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By HOWARD BROWN
Author of Shining Brightly

Like most of you, we are checking off our family’s Thanksgiving To Do list:

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Green bean casserole
  • Salad
  • Pies
  • Brisket (yes, for us that’s a tradition)
  • And, of course, the wheelchair, which I’ll need to pick up Mom from the airport

That last item is on the lists of millions of American families this week—and thank God for that! Our families are not allowing disability to keep loved ones from the traditional feast, surrounded by the warmth of family and friends.

How many American families are affected?

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 13.7 percent of Americans have difficulty walking or climbing stairs—and 2 out of every 5 adults age 65 or older have some form of disability. (The CDC information is presented as a free “printable” graphic if you’re looking for something to share with friends to increase awareness of disability.)

And, then, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports:

More than 25 million Americans age 5 and older have self-reported travel-limiting disabilities. 13.4 million are age 18 to 64 and 11.2 million are age 65 and older. And, 3.6 million Americans with travel-limiting disabilities do not leave their homes because they are disabled or housebound.

Does that last number break your heart? That image of 3.6 million Americans staying home at the holidays because they can’t manage to travel certainly inspires me to continue our annual odyssey of helping my Mom—the matriarch of our family—safely reach our Thanksgiving table in Michigan.

Mom’s Odyssey Will Be Like Millions of Others This Week

Mom—or Bubby to her grandkids—is 76 this year. She’s a high-energy matriarch who is as determined to reach our Thanksgiving gathering as we are to help her join us.

Our story is familiar to many readers. It starts with her overall condition: She’s had joint replacement surgery; she had a slip and fall; she snapped a bone; she hurt her back; she needs another joint replacement. Bottom line: She’s in pain, even when sitting—but she’s in even more pain when standing or trying to walk. She can take steps with a cane or walker, but she needs a wheelchair for longer distances.

So, to reach our Thanksgiving gathering at my twin sister CJ’s house, this year, she and Dad will leave their Massachusetts home and drive to the parking lot where they can catch an express bus to Boston’s Logan airport. That means Dad has to help Mom safely get out of the house and get settled in the car. Then, before parking at the lot, he lets her get out near a bench at the bus stop. He parks the car and walks back to her bench. Then, he helps her climb the steps onto the bus, when it arrives.

The bus drops her near another bench outside Logan, where she sits while Dad goes into the airport and finds someone with a wheelchair to come get Mom and wheel her through the airport to their gate. Then, an airline staffer wheels her onto the plane and helps her into her seat.

When they reach Detroit’s Metro airport, all of that long process is reversed—until they reach the baggage-claim area where I’m waiting with our wheelchair. Then, I push her out to our car, so I can drive them the rest of the way to Thanksgiving.

The whole journey is painful for her, but she’s a tough cookie who would never think of staying home—as long as a few caring people along the way can help her with wheelchairs through those otherwise almost impossible stretches.  In this family—and with some gracious assistance from the airport staffs—we’re happy to help.

But, you know what? That’s not all!

So, Mom has reached the Thanksgiving table and—whew!—we’re done!

Think that’s all?

Hardly! If you’ve got a disabled loved one in your family circle, of course you want them to fully participate in the holiday feasts. But there’s always more to a holiday than a meal.

What comes next for Mom and the four now-college-age grandkids in our family? Like millions of other Americans, it’s hitting the Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving. Mom absolutely loves to treat her grandkids to new clothes. So, they help her into the car, then they wheel her chair into the stores near the fitting rooms—so she can express herself as they select something new to wear.

Does all of this take extra effort? Sure. Is she shouldering a little more pain with the bumps and movements back and forth into the wheelchair and through these jam-packed stores? Sure.

But—she absolutely loves the Black Friday tradition. She wouldn’t miss it as long as she’s still breathing. And we would never enjoy the whole holiday weekend as much without her.

Learn something new this year: How to Safely Make a Wheelchair Transfer

Let me leave you with one final helpful tip: Learn how to safely make a wheelchair transfer. Families who regularly use wheelchairs know this by heart, but folks who volunteer to help only on special occasions like Thanksgiving might not know this.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides this very helpful, printable guide to making A Wheelchair Transfer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know we will—because Mom’s at the table with us!

Mom with me and my twin sister CJ at an earlier family gathering when standing wasn’t such a challenge.

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Care to learn more?

This is a perfect moment to become one of Howard’s growing global community of friends by ordering your copy of his book.

Here are other articles we have published, exploring the launch of this book:

Take a look at the book’s Foreword: ‘Shining Brightly’ Foreword by Dr. Robert J. Wicks: ‘Learn anew about the American Dream’

And, are you intrigued by that cover? Check out: Thanks to artist Rick Nease, our book covers keep ‘Shining Brightly’

Want a personalized copy of Howard’s book? Howard Brown helps readers personalize their gifts. (Get yours now.)

Babson College shares the news, because this book includes so many inspiring stories about the college’s unique approach to teaching entrepreneurship.

An inspiring story to share: Howard Brown shows us the power of mentors to pay it forward, generation to generation 

Don’t miss: Howard Brown ‘Shining Brightly’—The Surprising Joy of Sharing Hope Each Day

And you’ll definitely want to see this video: Howard Brown appears on ABC 15 in Phoenix on Nim Stant’s Go All In.

Download (and free-to-share) resource guides for discussing Shining Brightly:

What can these three lists inspire in our lives?

You’ll find lots of ideas you can use! Here’s one example from Detroit, where friends gathered to plant trees in honor of a friend.

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‘Shining Brightly’—Let’s get out there, join with friends and make our world a little greener!

Babson College alumni and friends from Michigan gathered for a Day of Service in Detroit, planting trees through the Greening of Detroit nonprofit.

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Making memories every day!

I live every day as an affirmation of my own resilience—something I take very seriously after two near-fatal bouts with cancer—and as an opportunity to give back gratefully to my community and our larger world.

There are lots and lots of ways you can do this from simply mowing the lawn of a neighbor who’s having trouble getting around—to organizing larger efforts with friends.

Recently, I coordinated a special tree-planting day in Detroit for some Michigan members of the Babson College alumni association. Every year, we commit ourselves to at least one Day of Service. This time, we wanted to honor Ellen S. Solomita, a 1989 Babson graduate and long-time friend who died last year. We all knew she would love to know that trees were planted as part of her legacy.

In doing so, I drew on at least 4 of the “Keys to Resilience When Confronting Cancer,” a part of the discussion guide to my memoir Shining Brightly:

  • Do not isolate yourself. We all need the help of others.
  • Keep moving, stay active and exercise.
  • Volunteer / mentor (Lifting-up others will lift yourself as well!).
  • Keep making memories with family and friends.

Want to see what we did?

Enjoy this mini-gallery of images.

Karen Dietz, class of ’09, brought her 2-year-old son NJ, who we are sure will one day help to lead the class of ’38.

Acheampong “Nicholas” Johnson, MBA ’22, showed us all how to swing an old-fashioned adze.

Here we are getting one of the trees ready to plant. My long-time friend Alan Bakst, who you’ll read about in my book, is to my right.

This kind of community service FEELS SO GOOD!!!

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Want to see my entire list of “Keys to Resiliency When Confronting Cancer?” 

Take a look at the following links, a list that includes a free-to-share PDF of those keys to resiliency.

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Care to learn more?

This is a perfect moment to become one of Howard’s growing global community of friends by ordering your copy of his book.

Here are other articles we have published, exploring the launch of this book:

Take a look at the book’s Foreword: ‘Shining Brightly’ Foreword by Dr. Robert J. Wicks: ‘Learn anew about the American Dream’

Want a snack as you read? Howard Brown and Jennifer Bass: Shining Brightly 1 cookie at a time

Want a personalized copy of Howard’s book? Howard Brown helps readers personalize their gifts. (Get yours now.)

Babson College shares the news, because this book includes so many inspiring stories about the college’s unique approach to teaching entrepreneurship.

An inspiring story to share: Howard Brown shows us the power of mentors to pay it forward, generation to generation 

And don’t miss: Howard Brown ‘Shining Brightly’—The Surprising Joy of Sharing Hope Each Day

Free Resource Guides

Download (and free-to-share) resource guides for discussing Shining Brightly:

What can these three lists inspire in our lives?

You’ll find lots of ideas you can use!

Here’s one example from Detroit, where friends gathered to plant trees in honor of a friend.

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Howard Brown ‘Shining Brightly’—The Surprising Joy of Sharing Hope Each Day

In one word, the central message of my memoir Shining Brightly is:

Hope.

“We’ve got to get out there!” That’s what I told  many of my friends throughout the pandemic. It’s not easy to play basketball with a face mask—but we need to keep stepping out there to share “happy places” with others. For me, that means shooting hoops with my buddies!

Wherever life takes you—even to a death sentence like the one I received twice in my life with diagnoses of advanced stage IV cancer—there’s always the possibility of a surprise around the corner. After a lifetime of experiencing such surprises, I’m so full hope that I now work with others on a daily basis in encouraging a similar resilience in their lives.

So, let me ask you, right now:

Want to discover more hope this week?

Want to share more hope this week?

Let’s start by considering the many pleasant “surprises” in our lives. We all encounter terrible surprises, too, don’t we? Believe me, after two bouts with deadly cancer, I understand those surprises that feel more like shocks.

But, in addition to whatever traumas we encounter, we all experience surprises that make us smile as we recall them. I’ll bet the stories you’re starting to recall, as I write this, are spreading a smile on your face. That’s how this process works.

Let me illustrate from my own life. Here are five of the many surprises I have discovered in my life:

First: Like fans of the movie Dirty Dancing, I learned a lot about life and about loving family relationships at those classic summer resorts in the Catskills that today mainly live in nostalgic memories for countless families.

As you’ll read in the book, I explored those resorts with my sister and cousins as children, hosted by our grandparents. For us, those trips modeled the central importance of spending family time together every year.

All I have to do is pause and recall those adventures with my sister and our cousins in the Catskills and I’m smiling.

Second: I love the Atlantic shoreline, but not where you would expect. As the Catskills faded, the annual cross-generational outings in our family transitioned to the Atlantic shoreline. There are many spots along the ocean that are popular to millions of Americans—and are jam packed as a result. Instead, our family found a favorite resort area way up in Maine that we claimed as our family home away from home for decades.

In my book, I risk letting readers in on our little slice of Atlantic heaven. As a result, I realize I may be adding to the crowds along our favorite stretch of shoreline.

I’m risking it to spread a little joy into readers’ lives.

Third: Everything I needed to know about working with customers in my career as a successful entrepreneur, I learned from a traveling shoe salesman.

That’s my father, who supported us by loading up old-fashioned carrying cases of shoes and boots and then crisscrossing New England to sell his wares. In my memoir, I write about my love of my father and his marketing adventures. There’s a lot we all can learn about the power of personal networking from those independent entrepreneurs who tirelessly build loyal customers nationwide.

In fact, as my book is launched, Dad still is out there beating a path to some of his oldest customers like many other salespeople who form a backbone of our country’s economy. In the pages of my memoir, you’ll likely gain a whole new appreciation for these daring entrepreneurs.

Fourth: My brother Ian was never supposed to be my real brother.

Let me explain that puzzling line: In this memoir you will learn how I agreed to a carefully monitored mentoring arrangement with little Ian through a program that was known as Jewish Big Brothers.

Then, all of us were surprised at the solid relationships that formed between Ian, his mother and my existing family through the years. If you want a true testament to hope that lies just around the corner for all of us, then read the story of my relationship with Ian.

But a word of warning: After reading those stories in my book, you may decide to become a mentor yourself.

Fifth: Basketball is my happy place.

Again, I need to explain that line. Part of successfully building up your resilience is becoming aware of the places that sap your strength and raise anxiety, as well as those places that are guaranteed to make you happy and rebuild your energy. I discovered basketball as a child and play it to this day.

In fact, as you will discover in the pages of Shining Brightly, I even promote interfaith peacemaking on the basketball court.

How do I do that?

Well, you’ll just have to discover this and other surprises in the pages of Shining Brightly.

 

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Care to learn more?

This is a perfect moment to become one of Howard’s growing global community of friends by ordering your copy of his book.

Here are other articles we have published, exploring the launch of this book:

Take a look at the book’s Foreword: ‘Shining Brightly’ Foreword by Dr. Robert J. Wicks: ‘Learn anew about the American Dream’

Want a snack as you read? Howard Brown and Jennifer Bass: Shining Brightly 1 cookie at a time

Want a personalized copy of Howard’s book? Howard Brown helps readers personalize their gifts. (Get yours now.)

And: Howard Brown shows us the power of mentors to pay it forward, generation to generation 

Download (and free-to-share) resource guides for discussing Shining Brightly:

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Caregiving with Older Friends: ‘You teach me how to be when I grow up.’

We often find stepping stones in unexpected places.

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Discovering Unexpected Wisdom as a Pastor

By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

There are a few times in my life that a gift seems to fall straight from heaven onto my lap. Such is the case when I was hired to be “Pastor of Visitation” at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Binghamton, NY. I was living in Binghamton to be near my cousin after a heart-wrenching divorce at age 50. My career as a clinical psychologist and pastoral counselor was on hold. But I was an ordained clergyperson so was qualified to be “Pastor of Visitation.” I was known as “Reverend Lucille.”

My job description included visiting 30 seniors every month. This entailed listening to their stories, serving communion and singing and praying with them. Each of the seniors already was related to a deacon from our church. The deacons helped them with transportation, shopping and other household needs. But the underlying expectation for me was that I befriend them and help them to feel loved by God.

This was a big expectation and at first I was quite anxious about it. Could I in such brief contacts convey my care for them and God’s love for them?

But in each situation, the conversation flowed easily and naturally. And I soon began to love and to cherish each one of my seniors.

When I look back, I especially remember my first visit with Anette and Lila. Anette was 90 years old and was eager to tell me her life stories. Her deacon Nancy took me with her and paved the way for a wonderful visit. Anette’s parents were immigrants from Italy. She was born on the day after her parents arrived on the ship from Italy. Can you imagine that trip across the Atlantic for her parents who were about to have a baby at any time? Even now, I cannot imagine the anxiety they must have felt.

But all turned out well. Her parents immediately became part of the immigrant Italian community in Binghamton where many of their neighbors worked in a shoe factory. They received modest but steady income.

Anette married an Italian man and they had two children, a son and daughter. Both were adults when I met Anette. Her daughter lives in Florida and her son in Washington, DC. They call her every day. Her daughter has begged Anette to move to Florida with her but Anette cannot imagine living away from her beloved house and friends in Binghamton. Five years prior to meeting her, however, she briefly agreed to move to a retirement facility in Binghamton. She lasted only four weeks, insisting that her son take her back home.

Anette’s husband died twelve years before I met her, and she told me the story that when she received the call about his death, she went to her living room and screamed for hours. Hours. He had died from a heart attack while driving. Her children encouraged her to sell the house, but to her, that would be like “turning her back” on her beloved husband.

Anette spends her days knitting and crocheting. When I visited her for the first time in her home, she was crocheting yellow tulips and had five on display in a vase. They were lovely and were the size of a small tulip but with a short stem. I had never seen anything like this. They were beautiful. At a later time, Anette gave away 40 tulips to the seniors at a special luncheon at the church. She was as thrilled to give as they were thrilled to receive.

In my second visit, she proudly showed me a white lace blanket for a bed. I was stunned at its beauty and touched by her joy in giving it away.

I soon learned that the biggest challenge of seniors is that of finding purpose and meaning. Most seniors have retired from their professions and their children are adults. But Anette was clearly a senior who had found “purpose.” Her purpose involved giving away the beautiful articles she had made. I soon learned that the seniors who were most content were those who were sharing their talent or resources with others.

After visiting her for about half an hour, I asked if she would like to sing. She immediately smiled then joined me and the deacon in singing Amazing Grace. Tears flowed down her face as we sang that beloved hymn.

I then explained to Anette that since I was a clergyperson, I could share communion with her—if she wished. She immediately nodded her head and answered, “Yes, please.” As she took a small piece of bread and a sip of wine, she glowed. Ten minutes later, when I said good-bye to her, a tear was running down her face and I assured her I would be back in a month.

As I left, I also had some tears running down my face. These were tears of gratitude for in this first visit in which I learned that I could truly be a blessing to Anette. This gave me courage to meet with my next retiree in two days.

My second visit was with Lila at Willowpoint Nursing Home. Her deacon Danielle explained to me the she had had a stroke eight years earlier. She used to be a pianist and a music teacher but all of that had changed. She could no longer talk or walk.

Lila sits in her wheelchair most of the day but she is able to wheel around using her right hand. Her left arm is in a sling and her left hand is closed and unusable—another side effect of the stroke.

Lila’s husband was dead and they had no children. She would likely spend the rest of her life at Willowpoint Nursing Home. Willowpoint is the county nursing home—the place where Medicaid patients live; a place that sometimes smells of urine.

I was quite anxious before the visit. How could I relate to someone who cannot talk? Very soon I learned the answer. It involved singing.

Lila was watching a cooking TV show when deacon Katy and I arrived. Katy had told me that Lila used to be a great cook and that she watches cooking channels all day long.

After we greeted each other we all watched her TV for a few minutes. Then we turned the TV down and I told her that I have an all-time favorite recipe for cookies. I asked, “Would you like to hear it?” Smiling broadly, she nodded her head.

I explained that the recipe is from “The Mennonite Community Cookbook.” The Mennonites are similar to the Amish. Hearing this, Lila gestured “Wow.” She clearly knew about the Amish.

So I began. “This is a Christmas cookie recipe and it has the ingredients of an old-fashioned fruit cake. Lila nodded at hearing this so I listed the ingredients of these cookies: walnuts, dates, raisins, candied cherries, pineapple and citron. The cookies are spicy with nutmeg and cloves, vanilla and lemon extract. In all there are eighteen ingredients. I repeated: Eighteen ingredients!”

Lila was glowing as I listed those ingredients. She clearly understood and Katy seemed impressed. Lila made a high-five motion with a big smile on her face. She emitted a friendly grunt and I knew I had made a good connection with her. I had been fearful about how I could make a connection with someone who could not walk or talk. And I felt so grateful that this seemed to be occurring.

After about twenty minutes of Katy and me telling Lila more cooking secrets, I asked her if we might sing. She immediately nodded and I suggested that we sing Amazing Grace. Her whole face lit up.

Katy and I began to sing—and to our amazement, Lila joined in! She sang off key and she spoke only a few syllables, but she sang with such joy and confidence that she sounded like an angel.

Katy and I were almost swept off our feet. Katy told me she thought I was some kind of miracle worker. At that moment, I was inclined to agree.

Back at church, Katy spread the word about Lila’s singing. I quickly acquired the reputation of being almost magical in my ability to relate to the seniors. Singing with them—or to them—become my signature pastoral gift.

While I clearly ministered to Lila, it should also be apparent that she was ministering to me.

She showed me through her sweet spirit that she is happy and content. She clearly has accepted her life as it is. She is not depressed, and she is loved by her caregivers at her nursing home. I later said to the head pastor, “How can she not be depressed? She amazes me. I so admire her!”

Over time, I came to admire many of my retirees and I often said to them, “You teach me how to be when I grow up.”

I thoroughly enjoyed those years ministering to my beloved seniors as “Pastor of Visitation.” But after five years it became clear to me that I belonged in Chicago, where I had lived most of my adult life. And now, eight years later, I’m the one that falls into the “senior” category.
On those days that are gray or confusing, I return to the wisdom of Lila and other seniors from those Binghamton days. The wisdom is always the same. It involves accepting deeply my current situation. Is it the death of a friend or relative? Is it accepting that I no longer have that huge outdoor garden? Accepting that the five big windows in my apartment are plenty big enough for my plants—all forty of them!

Being a senior means for me that sometime in my future I will move into a retirement facility. I am so grateful because there is one such lovely place four blocks from where I live in Hyde Park. A dear friend is the organist for the worship services, which I sometimes attend. And just recently I have been helping to lead a sing-along for people suffering from dementia. I’m loving it. I feel so blessed that this now is part of my life. And it will likely be part of my future.

On those days that are gray or confusing, all I need to do is stop and remember Anette, Lila and 28 other precious seniors in Binghamton, New York. I bow my head in gratitude for the privilege of being “Pastor of Visitation” for those dear people for five years.

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. She also is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day.

Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

 

‘Guide for Grief’ crosses boundaries to reach universal truths

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are honored to have the musician, educator and long-time advocate for cancer patients Elaine Greenberg join our writers by sharing her thoughts about the book Guide for Grief. The origins of this column by Elaine were some weeks ago during a conversation about grief, which is described in this earlier story in our magazine. As a result of that conversation, Elaine began reading some of our recommended books and has agreed to share her thoughts with us. Earlier, she reviewed Never Long Enough. Thank you, Elaine!

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By ELAINE GREENBERG
Contributing Columnist

Click on this cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

“Everyone dies. Every family grieves. People are terrified of admitting that we are aging, let alone dying.” These words appear on the back of the Rev. Dr. Rodger Murchison’s book, Guide for Grief.

Reb Nachman of Breslov, the beloved Hasidic Rabbi, tells us (and I paraphrase here): “We are not afraid of dying; we are afraid of living.”

Two different thoughts–one from a Christian pastor and one from a rabbi who lived in Poland during the 1800s. Both speak of death and the fear that exits among most of us about the subject.

The book Guide for Grief is exactly that—a Guide to help us through our grief after the loss of a loved one. Dr. Murchison writes, “This guide’s perspective is Christian, but all families will benefit from these well-tested principles.” I am a Jewish Woman who can attest to that truth, because this book that has helped me dealing with the death of my beloved husband, Shelly, who I lost in 2021.

When Dr. Murchison writes about all the different aspects of grieving, he is answering so many questions we have all had:

  • What Happens When We Die?
  • How Do I Live Without My Loved One?
  • Are There Healthy and Unhealthy Ways to Grieve?
  • Why Did My Loved One Die?
  • How Long Will My Grief Hurt?

These are questions that millions of us who have dealt with grief have asked.

Dr. Murchison knows these questions because he has counseled many people who are grieving. He doesn’t have all the answers, but he is very helpful in the way he presents his theories. Each chapter ends with a comforting prayer. Many of them containing quotes from well-known psalms.

In Chapter 9 “What About Those Who Mourn Children and Children Mourning?” He writes beautifully written as he covers the difficult subject of death and dying as it affects children.

Several weeks ago my great-grandson, John, was visiting, and as he sat on the kitchen counter so we were eye to eye. He looked at me and said “Why are you so sad?”

Now John just turned 4, so when he asked me that question I realized if this little boy is asking me about looking sad, I need to do something about this. I don’t want him to think of me as his Bubbie (Grandma) with the sad face. I said to him “Would you like for me to smile?”

And he answered me with a beautiful smile: “Yes.”

Later, he asked me “Do you miss Zadie (Grandpa)?”

And I said, “Yes, do you miss him?”

He looked at me and said “Yes, and Zadie can’t hear me when I talk to him, but I can hear him right here”—and he held his hand over his heart. This little 4-year-old was teaching me about grieving and that I needed to smile more and that he was communicating with his beloved Zadie through his heart.

Out of the mouths of babes—

Finding comfort and hope in the pages of ‘Never Long Enough’

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are honored to have the musician, educator and long-time advocate for cancer patients Elaine Greenberg join our writers by sharing her thoughts about the book Never Long Enough. This column by Elaine began some weeks ago with a conversation about grief, which is described in this earlier story in our magazine. As a result of that conversation, Elaine began reading some of our recommended books and has agreed to share her thoughts with us. Thank you, Elaine!

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Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

By ELAINE GREENBERG
Contributing Columnist

“It went too fast.”

Those were the words my husband spoke to me as he lay in bed during the last few months of his life.

Similar words form the title of this book by Rabbi Joseph Krakoff, illustrated by Michelle Sider. The words “there never is enough time” appear frequently throughout this book. Each thought is expressed in bold type along with an illustration crafted for that thought.

In the introduction, the rabbi has written these beautiful words:

Life is precious, irreplaceable and seems to go by far too quickly.
The loss of a loved one is painful, poignant and significant.
The relationships we form endure beyond the length of our days.
When we lose a dear one to death, it does not have to be the end of our connection with them.
They leave behind a treasure of cherished memories that no one can ever take away.

Each page explores those memories as well as our wishes and our hopes. The rabbi writes:

Wishing we had
Just one more day,
If only we could share one last word,
One last smile,
One last touch,
One more hug,
One final kiss,
Yet I will forever be thankful we had each other.
Those beautiful and cherished memories will be written on my heart forever.
For nothing and no one can ever take them away from me.

As I read those words from the rabbi, I was reminded of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, a play that features a Stage Manager who introduces us to both the living and some of the dead in his town.

One of the main characters, Emily, has died in childbirth at the age of 26. She wants to go back to earth just for one day and chooses her 12th birthday. As she enters, she sees her mother and father as they were on that special birthday and she sees herself at age 12.

Emily wants her mother to know she is there even though she is dead, so she says to her mother: “Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, 14 years have gone by. I’m dead. You’re a grandmother. Mama, I married George Gibbs. Mama, just for a moment let’s look at one another.” But, of course, even though we see Emily there on stage begging—her mother can’t see her.

I have never forgotten that play and I think of it often when I realize we are going on with everyday life and not looking at one another, nor taking the time to enjoy each other.

I am thankful that Rabbi Krakoff’s book reminded me of that play and that scene—and that truth.

It is a beautifully written book and it will serve as a helpful guide to grief to anyone who reads it.