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!
By ELAINE GREENBERG
“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.