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Take nothing for granted

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When my husband called, I knew immediately from the tone of his voice that something was very wrong, and it would be very bad. And it was.

Our friend David—a man who can only be described as one of the 36 righteous people in the world—had suddenly collapsed that morning at work, and died. Gone. Gone the day after his son’s high school graduation. Gone the day before his son’s confirmation, and his daughter’s grade school graduation. Gone three days before he was to be installed as our Temple’s President.

Gone at just 50 years old, with so much to live for.

“Just 50.” If you had said that to me just 10 years ago, it would not have sounded so young. Perhaps if I were 27, and not 37, David’s death would not have rocked me to the core of just how fragile and fleeting life is. How young 50 is.

David was not in poor health. He was not overweight. He was not a smoker, drinker, drug or risk taker. Sure, he knew he could be healthier, maybe work out more. But where would he find the time?

In other words, he was just like me. Just like my husband. Like most of us, who never think such a tragedy would happen to them.

“You always think this stuff happens to other people, not to you. Take nothing for granted.”

Those were the word uttered by David’s 18-year old son during his eulogy.

“Live a healthy lifestyle, learn CPR, and be an organ donor,” was David’s wife’s message of love, care and concern to the more than 1,000 friends and family who came to say their goodbyes to David—a testament to his great kindness and generosity of soul.

Death is not fair or just. Some people will live to be 100, no matter what they do to their bodies. Genetics are a card you are dealt in life, and you have to play with it the best you can to stay in the game. Most of us have will need to fight to stay at the table.

There are no words to explain why. Why David? Why now? Why is life snatched away from good and pure souls, and given to those black of heart? Why this of all weeks when there was such happiness to look forward to?

There are no answers. There is only anger, shock, sorrow and fear. Anger at a world that is so out of order—at a God that feels so unjust. Shock that there will forever be an empty chair at every event, every meeting, every service, where David used to sit—and an empty place in our hearts. Sorrow for his family, friends, and all who knew him who will forever mourn their loss, that the world lost one of its brightest, kindest stars.

And fear. Fear that it could just as easily be my husband, my daughter, or me in that casket. At anytime, from anything: a heart attack, a car accident, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Take nothing for granted.”

The morning that David died—before I had even gotten the call—a friend told me the story of how, at the age of 28, she discovered she had an 8-pound tumor in her body. Doctors gave her a 20 percent chance of making it through the surgery alive. When she was released from the hospital, she quit the job she hated.

“Take nothing for granted.”

Soon after September 11, and the death of his friend Marnie Rose—who died at the age of 28 from brain cancer—my husband decided to leave behind a successful career in politics and go to Rabbinical school. He’s never looked back.

Life is just too damn short to be in a job you hate, no matter how much it pays. It’s too damn short to spend it with people who don’t treat you well. It’s too damn short to spend it the way someone else thinks you should live it—and not how you really want to.

“Take nothing for granted.”

Don’t take your life for granted, or the people in it.

Take care of your health. Learn CPR. And be an organ donor so others may have a chance to live.

May David’s memory be for a blessing.

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