Just yesterday morning, I got my husband from the airport where he'd returned from spending Rosh Hashana in Uman, with Rav Berland and Rebbe Nachman. For once, he had a fairly uneventful trip (if you can ever really say that about Uman Rosh Hashana) inasmuch as he 'only' had four people in his room, the beds were nice and comfy, his roommates were all quiet, considerate guys, he davened nicely, he ate enough and he didn't get sick.
On the way out of Kiev motzae shabbat, literally a minute before boarding, he got a text message telling him that his mother had almost died motzae shabbat, but had apparently stabilised now with very bad pneumonia. As soon as he got back to Israel, he called the UK and was told that BH, his mother was stable in the intensive care ward and looked to be improving.
After some discussion, we decided to book tickets for Monday, to come and see her just to be on the safe side. Then, the chaos began in earnest. We called the hospital ourselves Sunday morning to check on her status, and the nurse we spoke to didn't seem to be unduly alarmed, and didn't tell us we should immediately get on a plane.
But then, over the course of the day, her conditioned steadily worsened and by 2pm, we were told she'd been intubated and was now in a very bad way. We frantically booked tickets for the first plane out yesterday (Sunday), and prayed that we'd get to see her one last time.
In the airport, just as we were trying to check in, we got the text telling us that she'd gone. She couldn't hang on anymore.
My husband and I burst into tears for five minutes (and probably looked like complete lunatics), but underneath it all, we felt a very deep peace. Over the last few months, with God's help, we'd enjoyed an increasingly close relationship with her, and when she passed away, there was none of that 'unfinished business' that can literally drive people insane if it's ignored and not addressed.
We know, profoundly, that this is just the next stage in her process now, and that her soul completed her tikkun down here. On some level, we're still in touch, she isn't 'gone' - just gone from our physical world, to a much, much better place, the world of truth.
So now, having written 'there's no going back' less than two weeks ago, God has brought me back again to the UK for the third time in less than three months. He's shown me again how little we are in control - how literally, you can leave a person alive and well one day, and the next day they may no longer be here.
It's such a sobering thought. It's such a call to action for all of us, that we shouldn't leave any 'unfinished business' with the people we love so much - even if sometimes we feel the exact opposite - because maybe, we won't have another chance to sort things out or clear things up. It's such a reminder that we really aren't the masters of our own destiny, however much we may want that to be the case.
And it's such a clear lesson that Rosh Hashana, the yom hadin, really is the time when our lives are in the balance.
This isn't a polished piece, and I don't have a nice way of closing this post.
But let me say this: come away from the computer when you finish reading this, and go tell the people closest to you how much you love them, ESPECIALLY if that's something you'd never normally say. Go make up with your annoying relatives, forgive them, understand that hurtful people hurt others because they themselves are hurting.
I know how hard that can be, believe me.
But what's a million times harder is for the person to pass on with all that 'unfinished business' still hanging around.
Baruch Hashem, we didn't have that to deal with. Baruch Hashem, we had got to a real level of mutual respect, love and tolerance.
At this time, in the 10 days of teshuva, that's what God really wants.