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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