|We lost my father-in-law Wednesday evening. He had been in the hospital for several days, and when it was clear he wouldn’t make it, his caregivers slowly pulled back his oxygen. He was sleeping peacefully when he died. He was ninety-five years old.
My husband was a devoted son. He spoke to his Dad four times a day, drove him to all of his medical appointments, made sure his clothes were dry cleaned, his hair cut, and his computer functioning. When our daughter had a performance, he made arrangements for his Dad to sit in in the front row, edging in the walker and helping him keep his balance in the crowd. On his 95th birthday (just a few weeks ago), he made him a party with smoked salmon platters and a carrot cake. (Don’t ask me about the candle calculation. I still don’t understand it.)
Last Yom Kippur, Steve invited his Dad to sing a duet with him for the congregation. (For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a Reform Rabbi.) He wanted to give his father something to look forward to. They chose an old tune they had performed in their High Holy Day choir during Steve’s childhood.
The song was written into the closing service (Neilah), so it came after a long day of fasting and prayer. The sun was setting outside and inside the sanctuary was crowded, hearts open for the last round of the holiday liturgy and melodies.
Steve’s Dad walked onto to the bimah, leaving his walker to the side to stand near his son. Before they began, Steve shared some stories about their days in choir together and explained the elaborate hand signals their choir director had made up. One gesture that looked like, “come forward,” meant “bring the volume up” Another meant, fill in the harmonies. An index finger twirling in the air, a gesture we like to call, “whoopdeedoo,” meant “they love it, they’re all crying, let’s do it again.”
Heads and hearts turned to one another, ten commandments rising behind them, Steve and his Dad sang in perfect pitch, nodding to one another to keep time. At the end, I turned around to find members of the congregation not only dabbing at their eyes with tissues, but twirling their index fingers in the air to do it again.
In recent months, when Steve’s dad would get frustrated, feeling like he was useless, Steve reminded him of that duet and the joy it brought the community. Dad had a glorious tenor voice that held into his old age. His story brings to mind something Julia Cameron has written in her many books:
Creativity is a gift from our creator, whatever we believe in as the source of life.
THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY TO SERVE OTHERS AND BRING JOY THROUGH OUR GIFTS.
We get so caught up in our desire to create, we often to forget that making art is an act of service. Creating isn’t some whim or fancy, but a calling and responsibility–whether it is the Great American Novel or an offering at open mic.
How could you shift your perspective right now and see your current project as a gift? With whom will you share it? How and when?