I’ve come to a place in my life where God doesn’t look like any on thing, but is, simply, everything. There is a text from the Psalms that says, “I have placed God before me all the time.” To me this means that my task as a religious person is to notice God in every facet and moment of my life. Rabbi Laura Geller, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
For almost three years, now, it’s been my joy and privilege to have a young girl named Janae as my friend and pen pal. Though I knew her parents for years – my “pretend” son and daughter-in-law – and was at her christening, we formally took up with each other one sunny summer afternoon during a rare coming together of our respective families. She fit in the hollow of my arm just so, and I wrapped that arm around her like a great feathered wing. During the three hours we were together, we stood, sat, walked, and talked in this position. I close my eyes and feel her there still.
We’ve being emailing back and forth across the divide – she in the great state of Massachusetts and me in Northern California — ever since, sometimes as often as twice a day. We talk about our favorite Muppets, what we want for Christmas, what we want to be when we grow up, that who we are is more important than what we do. We talk about difficult teachers, noisy brothers, and best friends. We wrote a poem. When she wished for a sister, I offered up my significantly older virtual self and she appropriated me as readily as I had taken her in her father twenty years before. When I told her I’d be offline for a few days because I needed to take my computer in for repair, she immediately sent me a note so the first email I’d receive when I got up and running would say, “Hope they did a nice job on your computer.” For her birthday this year, I sent her a lace hankie that was my Mother’s so she would have “something old” to carry when she walked down the aisle.
Another friend, a woman in her early 40’s, recently asked me for some advice because, she said, I was a “wise elder.” I’m certainly elder material, and take joy in helping others, but this was my first official go round as a marked elder. I admit, the honorific initially threw me for a loop, but I rose to the occasion, checked my ego at the door, and offered my $.02. What I said seemed to help her and I was glad.
I’m not sure what my disembodied and now ceremoniously eldered self brings to Janae. She has a loving family and many friends who appreciate her uniqueness. I actually think Janae is helping me more than I’m helping her. To see the world through her eyes, fresh eyes, eyes of a woman beginning, a woman in the making, is thrilling. And it fills me up to share my stories with someone (myself included!) who hasn’t heard them a thousand times, who views them as fresh and interesting.
Listening to Janae also makes me feel confident about passing the torch. She is smart. She is kind. She is strong. My flame may sputter and spurt, but hers rises.