Birth and death again – that endless yet uplifting cycle.

Birth and death again - that endless yet uplifting cycle

In our family today we celebrate a new life once again. And I am reminded of Rabbi Alvin Fine – yes, again. You can’t reach the age I am now without feeling birth and death’s endless yet uplifting cycle.

What joys await my latest grandchild? What sorrows? I don’t wish that he never experience hurt or suffering. That would be ridiculously naive. I wish instead that he can grow from them.

I know he will experience great sadness, because that is the human condition. But I hope that in his darkest moments, he remembers this grandmother tickling his chin, whispering ‘You know I love you, don’t you?’ That when he feels abandoned by life, he will remember me lifting him up to make him guess which photo of the newborn is the one of him (a favourite game of all the others.) That when he feels he can’t go on, he hears my voice saying: ‘This too shall pass’, those words of wisdom claimed for the Ancient Persians and quoted by Abraham Lincoln.

Fine’s poem is quoted here for you, my sweet child. Because life is a journey, sometimes feeling too long – but more often than not, feeling way too short.

Birth is a beginning and death a destination….

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey: 
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age; 
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing; 
From foolishness to discretion
And then perhaps to wisdom. 

From weakness to strength or
From strength to weakness
And often back again; 
From health to sickness, 
And we pray to health again. 

From offence to forgiveness, 
From loneliness to love, 
From joy to gratitude, 
From pain to compassion, 
From grief to understanding, 
From fear to faith. 

From defeat to defeat to defeat
Until, not looking backwards or ahead, 
We see that victory lies not
At some high point along the way
But in having made the journey
Step by step, 
A sacred pilgrimage. 
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey. 

–Rabbi Alvin Fine from Jewish Reform high holiday prayer book, Gates of Repentance

For more about Rabbi Alvin Fine:

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