I was in a different temple last night to say kaddish for Andrew, and the Rabbi there during the course of his speech talked about what we do in life, and that our life has to have meaning. He said that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is a great thought, and a great basis for the Declaration of Independence, But then he went on to say that although we all want Life, Liberty and Happiness, wouldn’t it be better if we had Life, Liberty and Meaning. He didn’t go into that much, he only touched on it and then went onto other ideas, but that thought stuck in my head all night.
Life and Liberty – we all pretty much get what that refers to, and although our thoughts on liberty might all be different, we know what liberty generally means. Whether you are a conservative, liberal, right, left, whatever, we all know what we want in life and we have our definition on liberty. I don’t want this to be a political platform, so enough said about that.
But meaning. That word hit me and I thought not only how it related to Andrew, but how it relates to all of us. How can someone who was taken from us so young, after only twenty one years, have meaning in their life? How can someone who only lasted on this earth a few years, or a few days have meaning in their life. What is meaning? Is it what Andrew found in his life that effected him and made him who he was? Was it that he became enlighten to some meaning and had some course in his life that was going to have meaning to himself? I don’t think so.
For anyone, even someone who makes it to seventy, eighty, or ninety, years of age, to have a meaningful life means that they had to effect/affect someone else’s life, or many people’s lives. They had to give meaning to someone else, or something else, they had to give meaning – not receive meaning.
The Rabbi at my sister’s temple, the priest at your church, the kindergarten teacher who taught our children, even Andrew’s hockey coach who taught them that the team is a family and will be forever – these are all people who all had a meaningful life, they gave some meaning to the people they touched in their lives, they had some positive influence over the people they touched. The volunteer at the animal shelter, the fireman who protects our lives, the people at the food pantry – these people all give of themselves – and in turn they all have a meaning in their lives.
But do we all have this meaning? Do some of us just go through life making it from one decade to the next? Do we make money and donate a portion of it and count that as our meaning in life. When someone donates millions of dollars to build a hospital wing – yea, their life had meaning. If someone donates $180 to build a well for water in Cambodia (https://www.facebook.com/10Wells), they have meaning in their lives because they did something good that will last for years to come.
How about the couple that has a child and gives that child up to a family that can not bear children? I think that is one of the best meanings in life that someone could have. Bringing joy to a family by means of a young baby is one of the greatest gifts of all.
Did Andrew have a meaning in life? I think he had so much meaning that one essay can’t capture it all. You’ll see in my ext journal….
He brought joy and happiness to our family. He made others smile and enriched the lives of so many other people. His friends tell us how Andrew would sit and listen to them for hours talk about their lives and their problems, and then when they were done he would respond back to them and make them feel so much better. I am not sure what he said, or how he processed what his friends told him, but he seemed to have a gift of giving some meaningful feedback that made others realize their problems were not so big. This is what he wanted to do in life. This was probably his calling, and definitely his meaning in life.
He also brought love and peace to some people. He rescued some from what would have been not such a nice life. He showed some people that a caring therapist could really help people, and those people are now pursuing a degree in psychology or psycho-therapy so that they have meaning in their lives.
G-d puts us all here for a purpose. We have to have some meaning in our lives. There are plenty of people’s lives that do not have meaning, or they choose not to have a meaningful life. But most of us do. And we need to, it fulfills us. It makes us whole, it gives us satisfaction. We volunteer, we teach, we coach, we donate, we guide, we mentor. We touch other lives. This is meaning.
When we pass, and others look back at the path we chose to take, will they look at that path and say this person was a good person, he was a mensch, – he had a meaningful life. When I look at my son’s path, I am happy. It was much too short, but it was a meaningful path.
I don’t know who said this, I heard it in a video:
“If your not making someone else’s life better, then your wasting your time.”
What will they say when they look at your path? Or mine?
More about the meaning of Andrew’s life in the next entry…