What follows is very much a part of our study of Psalm 117 and its invitation to praise God.
Recently, my dear friend M wrote to me a tale of woe about his life as an act of spiritual balancing in which I ask people to spend as much time telling me about their blessings as they do telling me about their burdens. I asked him to send me an equally long letter telling me what was still a blessing in his life. What he wrote has done more than inspire me. It has changed me. Now when I list my blessings in my morning prayers, I always include M and this unbelievable letter he wrote out of grief and love, pain and joy, sadness and gratitude. He gave me permission to reprint his letter. Thank you and God bless you, M, my beloved friend.
From M to Rabbi Marc Gellman: Sorry. I had laundry to do. Thanks for pushing for this other note. Be well.
I am happy that I am alive because I know it is not one miracle but an endless array of them, laughably incalculable in their likelihood if their number were in single digits, preposterous because we know they are legion.
The car accident that didn't kill me.
The job I didn't deserve.
The love I walked away from.
The one I walked into.
The spots on her brain that weren't real.
The test of his blood that let us all breathe.
The car accident that saved my life.
Every day she held the bucket, real or imagined, for me to throw up in.
Every day I made her cry, and she still forgave me.
Every day I made her smile that I took for granted.
Every day I had, not knowing I had it.
Every day I didn't have, wishing I did, knowing I would.
Every damn day, even now, when there is almost nothing, there is still something, still some thing, that is her in me.
Every day I still get to see them. Even though I've missed chances I'm already regretting, I've still had them here with me and those moments will echo through all the silent days soon to come.
Am I happy with this life now? I am happy that I exist. I am happy that whatever existence this is, it is a comfortable one, more comfortable than I deserve, with work that is vexing without being a vexation. Everything is ridiculously easy compared to what it could be. I have been forgiven by God because God loves. I see that more and more, because there is no other explanation for me being alive other than His love He showed me through her. Every hard thing I do is still possible. Every fear I still have, unspeakably immense though they all seem, they have not taken me down. And there's still time for me to be thankful that I am still here. That itself is a joy worth acknowledging.
I am happy that though wracked by the same troubled soul that is the gift of her parents' DNA, she is the writer I wished I could be. And I am happy that she is only getting started and getting better, and that I am able to help that happen, even if it is only by getting out of her way.
I am happy that he, too, is strong and steady and laughs easily and thinks more quickly than I can ever conceive, that his future is not merely bright but tangible, real and vast.
I am happy that they are mostly their mother's children. I am most happy about that.
I am happy to be able to tell my mother I love her.
I am blessed to be loved by so many, even though I rarely return it. I somehow know it's always there.
I am happy to be able to imagine a kind of future, any kind of future, because for what feels like a decade (because that's what it's been, more, truthfully) that future was six weeks at a time, then 12, then four months, now six. A new birthday is coming. I am happy to be surprised by that, to wonder what I might do with it.
So, there are a thousand little things in every day that I never seem to see, but they are more real than every breath I take. They are the miracles I get to keep. Once in a while I hold them, breathe them in, feel their warmth. When I do, I am reminded how precious all of this life is. I am reminded not to miss it. And then, knowing that, if only for a moment, I am happy. That is, I realize, all that I can ask for. And that is enough.
To which I simply say, Hallelujah!
SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.