Two years before my father died, he was refusing medical treatment.
At that time it became increasingly apparent that if he did not choose treatment soon, his passing would be very soon after.
It had not been very much time — perhaps only a year — since his own mother had died, just before her 103rd birthday.
So there we were, in the hospital. My father said to me “why didn’t I have 103 years?”
And then: “Is this all there is??”
To me, this was the most spectacular question I had ever heard — not to mention the fact that this was from my own father.
My own father.
I responded to him that in my eyes, that he was the luckiest of the lucky.
Look, Dad — I said — you have had two healthy children, healthy grandchildren, many years of health yourself and happiness and good food and good friends and warm, secure homes. You have had talent and music and games and cars and genius.
What more would you — could you –want?
You have had — I continued — the opportunity to pursue research in your field with support and interest and that this had changed the lives of many, many people.
Dad! If this has been all that there is — it has been amazing!
I have to say, he did not really believe me.
He did, however, agree to receive medical treatment — finally.
This story of my dad really reminds of the story of Moses. Great, epic Moses.
He leads his people out of Egypt, forty years’ through the desert (probably in a huge circle) and up to the mountain, above The Promised Land…
But no, he is not allowed to enter. He is left, high on the mountain, to look into the valley and wonder.
He is left to his disappointment.
He pleads with the Divine: “can’t I please go to Canaan? pretty please?”
But no, unfortunately, the answer he is given is “enough”!
You know, though, “enough” in an excellent answer, in my humble opinion.
“Enough” might have meant: You have had a lovely and beautiful life. You grew up in a Pharoah’s court and then were asked to lead a generation out of Egypt — and then have watched two more generations rise.
Further, Moses, you have had a lovely wife, two sons. Life has been good.
Life — has been very good.
Perhaps the “promised land” is not the land on the other side of the mountain, but it is the land where we are. It is the land where we have sojourned — with our families, our friends, our deeds.
The Promised Land is the place where we have already loved, already made mistakes, expended our energy and cried our tears.
Moses, and my father, had already reached The Promised Land.
So have we all, actually.
I think that in the not-quite two years between that conversation of between my father and I and his actual death, he eventually came to realize that his own place in the world had been a beautiful one.
That not only is that “all there is” — but perhaps all of it is all one might ever want.