samedi, décembre 01, 2007


One journey, two paths, love, always
By Elizabeth
Intelligencer Journal
Published: Dec 01, 2007 12:26 AM EST
I heard he was quite a classroom showman.
His field of expertise: American intellectual history. He was passionate about making it come to life for his students, whether teaching an introductory class or an advanced round table.
Comfortable in at least four languages — more than willing to fake his way through another two — he would tease waiters and clerks with a series of one-liners and truly awful puns.
Whether they got the joke or got confused, he was very open-handed with the tip.
Even when he became very ill, he would josh with his companions, who teased him, exhorted him, tended to his wounds and grew to love him.
He died last week, and now I'm looking for him in our old e-mails, his office, in my dreams. Wondering where he is, what he's doing, whom he's with.
The son of an immigrant Orthodox rabbi of some note, Dad was the youngest of four children.
Free of the financial pressures his older brothers and sister had to support their family, he attended Brooklyn College.
After serving in World War II, he earned a doctorate at Columbia University. Somewhere in the course of his studies he developed a deep understanding and even empathy with men of spirituality as different as the evangelical 19th-century British Prime Minister William Gladstone and American transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
When I became a Christian in college, Dad, who was a professional doubter and questioner, put me through my paces. Our conversations were suffused with his knowledge of British and American religious history.
How strange that my father, the son of a reclusive Jewish scholar, should so thoroughly understand the fundamentals of my adopted faith.
Or maybe not so strange.
In the catholicity of his interests, and his astoundingly broad frame of reference, he seemed to span many worlds, not to mention many centuries.
If faith and disbelief occupy separate territories, Dad seemed to have a foot in both camps.
They would not be so unkind as to say it to a grieving daughter, but I'm fairly sure some Christians would assert that because Dad wasn't a Christian, let alone a paid-up theist, his fate was sealed.
To them, or to anyone who thinks they can make such a determination this side of eternal life, I would issue a gentle challenge.
Get to know someone who walks a different spiritual path.
Listen empathetically and talk candidly with them. Then ask yourself if you are still as hard-core about salvation through faith in Christ alone as you once were.
If you have lost a parent, one who walked a different spiritual path from your own, perhaps you will understand viscerally when I say that I leave a lot in the hands of a loving God whose power and purposes are beyond anything I can imagine.
Knowing my own inadequacies and difficulties in being faithful to His call to discipleship, I find it more fruitful to focus on listening for God's still small voice in my own life.
In the meantime, I take comfort in the words of singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash, who lost her mother, dad and stepmother within the course of two years.
Asked by a writer for the Web site Beliefnet what she thought happened after we die, Cash said she tends now to believe that the dead exist in a place where "they don't need the body or the senses anymore, and there's love and there's still learning and growth of some kind."
It may be, said Cash, that it is we who are in the dream world, and they who are awake.
Dreaming or awake, I cling to his last words to me, spoken almost inaudibly in an evening phone call to the Brooklyn brownstone where he spent his last months.
"I love you."
Me too, Dad.

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