This week one year ago, a girl dear to me died suddenly and young on my best friend’s birthday. This week a beloved and distant friend’s father died. Lou Reed died. On Tuesday it is my little brother’s birthday, and the birthday of someone I watched veer close to death more than once. Too much all at once is what eternity is, said Kenneth Patchen. When I was very little, when I couldn’t sleep, I would list everything and everyone I loved and missed until the force of the litany was too much and I ran weeping to my parents. It makes sense now, this listing; the sense of record must have something to do with being Jewish. At Yom Kippur we engage in teshuva, or “repentance,” inside a day of prayer. In this process we say the Al-Chet prayer — a prayer of confession — repeatedly during services at synagogue. Sometimes the repeated opening of the prayer is translated as “For the sin which we have committed.” Sometimes it is translated as “For the mistakes we committed before you.” One of the mistakes or sins, perhaps the one that moves me the most, is the mistake of “hard-heartedness.” This translation matches the translation of an action in Exodus that God exacts upon Pharaoh, so that he will go after the Jews when they are fleeing from Egypt…. The translation of sin in the Old Testament isn’t associated with evil necessarily… chet or “sin” is associated with the idea of “missing the mark.” It means we can do better, try again.
What has all this to do with loss and birth?
“We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.” R.M. Rilke
Carry on. Hold each other. Reach out.