Ecclesiastes is Making Sense

Image: A brass hour glass sits on its side in the sand. (annca/Pixabay)

Three people dear to me died this past week. One was a friend, one was a teacher, and one was my brother.

The friend was Maureen Logan. She was the clergy assistant at Temple Sinai in Oakland. Maureen and I bonded over our shared Irish American heritage, something not all that common in Jewish communities. She reminded me of my grandmother and her friends: kind and wise, with the cheerfulness that comes from spiritual depths. I’m sad that the doctor has forbidden me alcohol, because I’d like to raise a glass of Guinness to Maureen.

The teacher was Sister Rose Marie Masserano, O.P. Sister Rose Marie was my seventh grade teacher. She was not a lot older than her students when she taught my class. My main memory of her is that she was the first person to encourage me as a writer. She called me up to her desk one day, and I saw that she had a story I’d written in her hand. “Did you write this?” she asked me, in a very serious voice. “Yes, Sister,” I said, wondering if I was in trouble. “It’s very good,” she said, “I think you might have a talent. If you work on grammar and spelling, I think you could do very well.” I lit up. I was a fat, awkward child who felt like a misfit everywhere I went, but now I had a talent. Better yet, she had given me a gift: she told me what I needed to do to improve.  She rescued me from the malaise of middle school by offering hope and a plan. And unknowingly, she fostered the teacher within me, showing me that a good teacher looks with discernment on every student, seeking the spark in them. As I said back then, I say again now: “Thank you, Sister.”

And the third is a heart-breaker: my brother Albert Menefee passed away from complications of injuries he sustained in a horseback riding accident almost two years ago. I wrote about it in An Unusual New Year at the time. Since then he has suffered terribly from his injuries, as have his family, and now death has released him from that suffering. His wife and children and all of his friends already miss him very much. As for me, he was my little brother, and I have the vague feeling that I should somehow have protected him.

Life is such a roller-coaster. I have been on the east coast to celebrate the wedding of a young man who is “chosen family” to me. The call that Albert was dying came just before the wedding began. But Josh has been like one of my own sons since he was about 14; I was there not as a friend but as an adopted mom, so I put anticipated sorrow aside and put my heart into that celebration. I am overjoyed that this wonderful young man has found a life partner who is his match in goodness. That wedding was a nechemta, a strengthening comfort that I needed. Life is renewed.

The wheel turns, the generations pass. I know I’m getting older when the Scroll of Ecclesiastes begins to make sense.

One generation passes away, and another generation comes; and the earth remains for ever. The sun also arises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to his place where he arises. – Ecclesiastes 1: 4-5.

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rabbiadar

Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

18 thoughts on “Ecclesiastes is Making Sense”

  1. Too many losses for one week.

    I remember that your brother accepted you as is. May his love for you extend beyond the grave.

    And please take good physical care of yourself; I’m a nursing instructor, & 2 sieges of blood clots are enough!😎

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  2. The most difficult challenge of adulthood, IMHO, is having to say goodbye forever to those we love, especially when it is too soon. In time, I hope the happy memories will be of comfort. Sending hugs your way from the Sierra Foothills…

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  3. Thank you. I am sorry for the losses you described—especially your brother, since he suffered so much! Your words and the biblical quote were a comfort to me today; I too have lost 3 close friends or family members in a relatively short period of time and am trying hard to reconcile the fact that I am still living (age 77) and they are not.

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    1. Bill, I am so sorry for your losses, and sorry that my own disorganization has meant this went un-responded for so long! Linda Feldman’s message “The most difficult challenge of adulthood, IMHO, is having to say goodbye forever to those we love, especially when it is too soon.” was right on target for me. May you find some comfort for your losses and meaning going forward.

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  4. Thank you for your beautiful thoughts, Ruth. Your brother Johnny passed this website along and I have enjoyed falling down this rabbit hole. By way of (re) introduction, I am your cousin through your dad’s side (my mother is Harriette Fulghum Myers). Johnny is just a half-year younger than I, so he was most often my partner in crime. I simply wanted to send you a note and say hello and express my condolences after Albert’s passing. Peace.

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    1. Jimmy! I remember you, but as a VERY small boy!

      Thank you very much for the kind words. I am grateful for all the many kindnesses people have extended to the family through this ordeal. Most of all I grateful that Albert’s suffering is over. Thank you so much.

      If ever you are on the West Coast, holler! Johnny can give you my phone number. Nice to re-meet you, cousin!

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    2. Jimmy, I remember you as a very little boy, really a toddler! My gosh, what a treat to hear from you!

      Thank you for your kind words about Albert. It was time for him to go home, and I’m glad his suffering is at an end.

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  5. Loss upon loss…one would be hard enough. My heart goes out to you. Almost all of the generation that preceded me passed away between September and December. The fall, with all its color and transition, is a most reflective time for me…and now perhaps for you. May your brother and your loved ones be remembered well and may your sorrow and grief be bolstered by your memories of them.

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