My Dad’s health is declining, and I already mourn the loss. When he can, we view family photos, such as this one. Sometimes Dad perks up, recognizing faces, names, places, and events. Although many of the photos include images of people now departed from this world, we don’t mention that fact. It’s enough that we see their faces again, rejoicing in recognizing our kin, and in being together.
It brings a moment of shared joy to both of us. It also reveals Kavod / Honor / Respect for what Dad still has left. And it lets me show Kavod for the holy spark within him, within every person.
In response to that joy, this passage from Psalm 30 sang out from my soul like a ray of sunshine.
הָפַכְתָּ מִסְפְּדִי לְמָחוֹל לִי פִּתַּחְתָּ שַׂקִּי וַתְּאַזְּרֵנִי שִׂמְחָה׃
לְמַעַן יְזַמֶּרְךָ כָבוֹד וְלֹא יִדֹּם ה' אֱלֹקַי לְעוֹלָם אוֹדֶךָּ׃
You turned my mourning into dancing.
You exchanged my sackcloth and clothed me in joy.
So that my kavod* will sing You, and not be silent,
Hashem, my God, I thank You forever.
[ * The same Hebrew word, kavod, can mean “honor” or “soul.” ]
Sadness would be normal as I contemplate the inevitable. And I can still find joy in the time we have left to share, and in the opportunity to serve out of Ḥesed / Kindness and Ahavah / Love.
I thank Hashem every day for this privilege of serving, and for the ability to find some joyous moments—even on the days when my Dad is not so interactive. I show that gratitude by seeking more opportunities to turn mourning into joy. By noticing even the briefest joys. By showing Kavod / Honor for every soul. By finding reasons to dance and to sing.
Postscript: My father left this world about a week after I posted this essay—of the relatives in the photo, Dad was the last person to go. My sister and I were both at his bedside that night. Those moments of joy we shared in the preceding days carried into my experience of his passing—alongside sadness and regrets, I can also replay that joy and gratitude.