May 27, 2024
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May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Stan, our conversation really made me think…

In the Parsha of “Vayeira” where the promise of a son is revealed to Sara it is stated (18:11) “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years…” The Zohar interprets the words to mean that they reached their old age with days that mattered. Most people go through life with days and hours that were wasted and unfortunately misused. But Abraham and Sarah reached their old age having utilized each day with purpose and intent.

As I read this in my synagogue several weeks ago, I could not help but remember you and your impactful words, which were still so fresh in my head from two days before…

“Thank you for being here,” you had calmly said. “I need to unload to someone.”

You told me that you had been diagnosed with lung cancer 20 years ago and didn’t expect to live as long as you had. You beat the odds. But over the past few days you started experiencing shortness of breath and some other concerning symptoms; your son forced you to go to the hospital. You had thought and were hoping that as an 82-year-old, “this” was just part of regular aging. Moments before I entered your room, you had just found out that you had an aggressive brain tumor and according to the doctor, you likely had less than two months to live. You mentioned that your wife had passed away only one year ago and you were finally starting to move on with your life without her. And now this. You shared your complete brokenness with me. You repeatedly said, “Two months. I want to live. I want to live. I have so much more I need to do.”

Your tears flowed freely from your eyes. You reached out to hold my hand and just stared into my eyes. It was as if you wanted me to save you, to rescue you…but I could not. You made me feel so frustrated and absolutely helpless.

“Tell me more, Stan,” I said to you. “What do you need to do with the time you have?”

You then began to share your story. You told me that as you reflect back on your life, you feel like you wasted too much time and energy on trivial things, things that really seem insignificant now. You constantly worried about matters not in your control. You let negative people and situations drag you down. You lived your life feeling angry, jealous and often resentful with others when you should have just looked for the good in all people and all situations, making you a happier person.

Reconciliation with your daughter who does not speak to you and re-connection to your Jewish faith, which you lost years ago were two priorities that you mentioned. You acknowledged that these things cannot be accomplished overnight and you feel a bit hopeless, but extremely motivated. You said that it is now your dream to go back to sunny Florida to enjoy being on your beautiful yacht. Reminiscing about your wife on that yacht brought smiles to your face.

You were adamant about not pursuing an aggressive form of chemotherapy, which would likely cause you to live your remaining days feeling terribly ill and exhausted. You mentioned that you will be pursuing palliative care, which will help you keep all of your symptoms managed, your pain under control, and will provide you with the strong emotional and spiritual support that is so much more valuable to you at the present moment. You said you care more about the quality of your days now. You care about living and making the most out of every day you have left.

I listened attentively to you for 30 minutes. I heard more of your story.

You laughed, you cried, you questioned yourself, you questioned God and you expressed your appreciation to me for having released a huge burden. After leaving your room, I decided to take a few minutes to sit outside and reflect on our powerful, spiritually connecting encounter.

Stan, your words continue to echo in my head. “I want to live. I want to live. There is so much more I need to do.”

I have not seen you since that visit and I am unsure if you made any progress toward accomplishing all that you set out to do. I hope and pray that if you are still alive you are choosing to follow in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah, to live each day you have left in this world with intent, focus, purpose and meaning…hopefully in sunny Florida.

I thank you for helping me remember this message too.

By Debby Pfeiffer

 Debby Pfeiffer is a board-certified chaplain working at Morristown Medical Center through its affiliation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest, NJ. She resides in Bergenfield with her husband and children. She can be reached at [email protected].



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