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Courage for the Life Ahead

I wrote this on behalf of my brother Michael

and all the people who were touched by our parents:



Whenever we had dinner together,

my Father

would always offer the exact same toast or prayer

at the beginning of the meal.

He would raise up his cup and say:

'Courage for the Life Ahead'.


It was his constant refrain over the years,

whenever people would fall silent

and hearts were gathered together in feeling.

I have come to feel and understand more of what he meant

as I too have grown older.


I have written this poem in celebration of my Mother and Father.

It was written when they were still alive.

It was a day when I felt the 'death sentence' of this life,

the death sentence that has fallen on everyone.


It was a day I felt my own eventual and coming death.

It was a day I felt my parents death

and that they were closer to death than I was.


It was a day when I felt how much I would lose when I lost them.

It was a day when I felt how they had lost their own parents

It was a day in which I felt so much gratitude

for what they had given to me and to our friends

and to the whole world.


It was a day when sorrow mixed with happiness

and filled my heart with feeling.

My parents were such good people.

I love them deeply.

I pray for them every day.

The second part of  the video below- 'Courage for the Life Ahead,' took place one night

the month before my father passed away.

He already had a stroke, was partially paralyzed and it was difficult for him to sit up straight.

His voice was weak and he often drifted in his memories in a most beautiful and 'melancholic' way.  


It was late in the evening, I was preparing my video camera for a woodworking job

I was to go to the following morning.

When my father started singing, I turned on the camera and recorded him

as I lay on the floor and he sat in front of me in the living room of my house on his favorite rocker.

Several times I asked him if he was tired or wanted to rest

but he was savoring the moment and rejuvenated by what he was feeling. 

It was an exquisite evening of rare emotional outpouring and love

as he recounted various episodes and memories from his life.

I asked him many questions as we remembered our lives

and laughed and teased each other sweetly and lovingly.



Courage for the Life Ahead

Courage for the Life Ahead


Who will talk of my parents?
Who will tell their story?
Who will pass on their spirit so beautiful?
Who will pass on their soul?
Who will pass on their love?


I will.
I am their child
I am the union of their bodies
The fruit of their desire
The wine of their cups
I will tip the wine

I will break the bread

I will tell the story


What they have passed on from their parents
With their long beards and Babushkas
Their chicken soup and Synagogues
Pouring out the sweet spirit of Southern Russia
and the ancient mysteries

Passed on from their own parents
So much love
So much wisdom
So many questions
So many wonderful, wonderful questions
Questions that are doors to so much


May I give these questions to those who want and need them 
School has taught me how to count and how to put the letters together
But what I have been able to understand of soul was a gift
from my mother and father
With their love they have given me
the taste for spirit that has driven me all my life
May I give this taste to those who want and need it.


How can I thank you?
How can I thank those who have been the face of so much for me?
How can I share what you have given me when you are not here?

Give unto others

Give unto others
Give unto us all
This is what I hear from you
This is all that I hear

I hear you beloveds
I hear you
I am your gift to the world
May I have your strength to persevere


God give me courage for the life ahead
God give you courage for the life ahead
God give us all courage for the life ahead...

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