Two wine friends have died in the past month. One was old. He was 79. One was young. He was 52. Both were heart deaths.
I sat in the synagogue today for the younger man's memorial service. My wine boys collected beside me, one or two at a time.
The temple was beautiful. Wood, soaring spaces, clean lines. Most synagogues end up as an afterthought on some piece of otherwise undesirable land. Jews, as they always have, make the most of what they have. The building's back was immediately against the hill in the lot. A tall, narrow window showed winter hillside ascending at a steep angle: trees that somehow managed to grasp hold, dead leaves, sky at the top. If you had tried to climb it, you would not have been able to do it without equipment.
The inside of the temple soared. Twenty feet? Thirty? That metaphor for G-d and heaven spans most religions. The metaphor holds true as one thinks about the human spirit that soars, both in life, and in death.
(Why is heaven thought to be UP and hell is DOWN?)
There was a time when I contemplated legacy. Beethoven, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Michelangelo are remembered for centuries. There is nothing that ordinary mortals like me can do to match their achievements. For a time, I was disconsolate that I would not be remembered as they have been. So one gets used to the idea that one's influence is only local. The rabbi says, of course, that no one takes anything with them when they die. The powerful message: that what you do while you live is what you leave behind, and how you are remembered. The tools for that are simple.
Your days are your tools. Treasure and cherish each day. It sounds trite. But it is all we have.