Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Close Encounters of a Hanukkah Kind

After minyan today I went to visit my friend Mitzi Wilner, who is back in the hospital dealing with her deteriorating heart. She has a strong spirit, which I hope will keep her with us for a while longer, but time with her right now is precious.

Not wanting to get there too early, I had a cup of coffee at Peets on Fillmore Street before heading up to CPMC on Webster Street. There I ran into another Marilyn--an elder San Franciscan who occasionally stops into events and services at Beth Sholom and at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. I don't know much about here--where and how she lives, what she has been through in her life. I only know that she always shows up with a smile on her face, happy to participate in and with the community. We had a nice talk. She shared a story about her time in Israel, and we laughed about the color of my hair--with it's turquoise and orange streaks (by request from the last bar mitzvah at Beth Sholom).

When I got to Mitzi's room in the Cardiac Unit, there was Rabbi Mimi Weisel, a Jewish chaplain visiting Mitzi. She brought a Hanukkah packet from the Bay Area Healing Center, including a menorah where you can "light" the candles using stickers. Mitzi is a woman of deep faith as well as having large practical streak--two virtues that help keep her alive in Poland during the Holocaust. Rather than being depressed about what she couldn't do, she was glad to be able to keep the spirit of Hanukkah.

I spent some time alone with Mitzi after the Rabbi moved on to her rounds, staying until her doctor came for some tests. I got into an elevator, joining a large African-American women in a bright red coat. As I turned around to face the door, I saw a couple people approaching the elevator as the doors began to close. I stopped for a moment, then, at the same time as the other woman in the elevator, reached for the "open door" button---but it was too late, and the doors closed. The woman and I paused, then said in unison, "Well, we tried" We looked at each other and laughed our united, albeit unsuccessful effort. We gave each other a hug and said "Happy Holidays."

With each of these encounters, I shared moments with others, both inside and outside of my sphere. Each of us was open to the joined experience. Does this happen always, or was is there something to be said for the universal spirit that is being spread around this week? Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the reason---it was nice to be in the stream.

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