Several weeks ago I met a congregant, who I’ll call Sarah, at a local beach pier. It was a beautiful day, although quite hot as July in Florida always is. Luckily, there were benches underneath large, cloth tarps that provided much appreciated shade. There, we were able to sit several feet apart, masked, enjoying the waves and the breeze.
I’ve known Sarah for several years, and while we would see each other infrequently, we remained in touch mostly through email. It was in one of her emails that she informed me of her recent terminal diagnosis. I knew that she had been dealing with a cancer diagnosis a couple years back, but last I heard, she had successfully completed her treatments. Now she had a new diagnosis, and she was told that there is no cure.
Wanting to support her, I asked if she would want to meet in person, which is how we came to be sitting on the Pompano Pier.
Sarah spoke about her life since Covid, her recent medical challenges, and life in general. In many ways, it could be described as a “normal” conversation. Sarah’s calm and acceptance amazed me. She spoke to me about possible treatments that might be able to afford her more time. She shared that she has no regrets and feels so blessed to have lived the life she has.
There is nothing left on her proverbial “bucket list” that she feels called to do.
As I sat and listened to Sarah, I noticed a small bird hopping around in front of us. There was something unique about this little guy. As I looked closer, I noticed that he was missing one leg. He continued to hop along, not looking any worse for the wear. I was mesmerized with how he seemed to go along doing what birds do. What a metaphor for this moment, I thought to myself. I don’t know if Sarah noticed this one-legged bird, but I could not help thinking that Sarah in some ways is like this beautiful creature. She had been given a terminal diagnosis,
and she continued to go on with her life, focusing on what she does have,
remaining in a place of gratitude.
Sarah plans to spend these next however many months she has left enjoying the beach, doing a bit of local travelling, spending time with her cat and appreciating all of her life’s blessings. I felt so incredibly blessed to be in Sarah’s presence and to witness her end-of-life journey.
When it came time to say goodbye, she walked me to my car and insisted on making a donation to the temple for all of the times she enjoyed attending services. “I’m sorry I haven’t done this sooner, but I want to do it now,” she explained. Realizing the she forgot a pen, she asked me for one and I, too, didn’t have one I could locate. All of the sudden, I realized that I had neglected to drop off school supplies to a local youth organization that had been in my car for weeks. “Wait, I do have a pen!” I popped the trunk and found a bag full of pens, pencils, and markers. I pulled out one pen with gold sparkles. As I handed Sarah the pen, she smiled, commenting on how much she loved it. “It’s yours,” I responded.
It was then that she uttered the most amazing words that I have not
stopped thinking about for all of these weeks.
While I don’t remember exactly what transpired between us, Sarah replied, rubbing her hands over her forearms, “Wow, what you said just gave me goosebumps. I have such goosebumps. You know what, you know what I want for this new year,
I want to go on the Goosebump Tour.
I want to do those things in life that give me goosebumps.”
Sarah reminded me about the details of our goodbye when I asked her permission to share this blog. She graciously granted it and wrote the following: “This month’s newsletter is a beautifully written prayer for me. You have my permission to share the time we spent together. The Goosebump Tour was the result of you providing a bag full of pens for me to write a donation check. At that moment I felt G*d would provide more than I could imagine. I love the pen with the gold sparkles you gave me. It’s my reminder of our Goosebump Tour. Everyone loves a souvenir.”
Sarah’s words and the sentiments actually took my breath away. What an amazing wish for the new year, and to be honest, a wish for every day.
I’ve heard it said in the spiritual world that goosebumps are the body’s way of responding to what the soul knows. Of course, I’m not talking about temperature change goosebumps, rather, I’m talking about goosebumps that happen when…
family and friends love us deeply,
we perform acts of lovingkindness,
we are witnessed by another,
Truth is spoken,
…those kinds of goosebumps. The “je ne sais quoi” (“I just can’t even explain it.”) goosebumps.
So, what would it look like for each of us to enter the New Year of 5782 thinking about creating our own Goosebump Tour? What are the things in life that give your goosebumps? What inspires you, touches you so deeply that your body has a visceral reaction and your soul says, “YES! I want more of this!”? Whatever they are, I invite you to do more of them this year.
Start planning your Goosebump Tour.
I’d love to hear what you plan to do. You can share below your intentions for your Goosebump Tour.
I will remain forever grateful to Sarah for teaching me — and now teaching all of us — so much on that mid-July day.