Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Chance For Teshuva - Orthodox Conservative AND Liberal All At The Same Time

Charles Krauthammer seems like a decent man. A great Conservative thinker and intellectual. He was raised in an Orthodox home first in New York and then in Montreal. He was paralyzed as a young man when he jumped into a swimming pool and broke his neck but that didn't stop him from becoming a Psychiatrist - even without the use of his legs and barely his arms. He then became a political and social commentator. He is a tremendously talented person, possibly the most influential Conservative columnist in America. [He also grew up in Canada when my mother was growing up there. His father was from Belgium as is mine. He grew up religious as did I. And I recall hearing my father relate that he knew Dr. Krauthammer from when he went to Long Beach in the summers back in the day. See the article on the bottom from the Washington Post. Plus - my middle name is Charles:-). Really. When I want to have fun I call myself that. Or Chuck. Or Charlie. My email is "alchehrm" which is short for Allan Charles Ehrman - my passport-birth-certificate-name. So I feel connected to him. I am also Conservative in my thinking while being Orthodox in my Judaism and Liberal in how I try to compliment people:-)].

This is what he wrote: 

I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.

In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications – which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health.

However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.

I wish to thank my doctors and caregivers, whose efforts have been magnificent. My dear friends, who have given me a lifetime of memories and whose support has sustained me through these difficult months. And all of my partners at The Washington Post, Fox News, and Crown Publishing.

Lastly, I thank my colleagues, my readers, and my viewers, who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work. I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life – full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

He writes that "fate" has decided on a different course. Who is "fate" and how does it "decide"? No mention of G-d in the article. I wish he would do teshuva. How many people know when they are going to die. He is now going to meet Hashem and all he will have is his relationship with Hashem. Without Hashem - one is lost forever. If one is with Hashem he doesn't have to be "sad to leave". He is going back to the Source, where everything is sweet and filled with Love And Light.

Yes, maybe "he lived the life that [he] intended" but did he live the life that "He" intended??  It is not my place to judge but we all have to know that life is much bigger than the little world we can perceive with our five senses. 

May he have a refuah shleima [doctors don't decide when he goes - that is Hashem's job] and may he be zoche to have the spiritual clarity before he dies to fulfill the saying of Chazal שוב יום אחד לפני מיתתך. 

A moving article he wrote in 2006:

Place: Los Angeles area emergency room.

Time: Various times over the past 18 years.

Scene: White male, around 50, brought in by ambulance, pale, short of breath, in distress.

Intern: You're going to be all right, sir. I'm replacing your fluids, and your blood studies and electrolytes should be back from the lab in just a few minutes.

Patient: Son, you wait for my electrolytes to come back and I'll be dead in 10 minutes. I ran the ICU here for 10 years. I'm pan-hypopit and in [circulatory] shock. I need 300 milligrams of hydrocortisone right now. In a bolus. RIGHT NOW. After that, I'll tell you what to run into my IV and what lab tests to run. Got it? 

Intern: Yes, sir.

This scene played itself out at least a half-dozen times. The patient was my brother, Marcel. He'd call later to regale me with the whole play-by-play, punctuated with innumerable, incredulous can-you-believe-its. We laughed. I loved hearing that mixture of pride and defiance in his voice as he told me how he had yet again thought and talked his way past death.

Amazingly, he always got it right. True, he was a brilliant doctor, a professor of medicine at UCLA and a pulmonologist of unusual skill. But these diagnostic feats were performed lying flat on his back, near delirious and on the edge of circulatory collapse. Marcel instantly knew why. It was his cancer returning -- the rare tumor he'd been carrying since 1988 -- suddenly popping up in some new and life-threatening anatomical location. By the time he got to the ER and was looking up at the raw young intern, he'd figured out where it was and what to do.

I loved hearing these tales, in part because it brought out the old bravado in him -- the same courage that, in the 1980s, when AIDS was largely unknown and invariably fatal, led Marcel to bronchoscope patients with active disease. At the time, not every doctor was willing to risk being on the receiving end of the coughing and spitting up. "Be careful, Marce," I would tell him. He'd laugh.

Friends and colleagues knew this part of Marcel -- the headstrong cowboy -- far better than I did. We hadn't lived in the same city since he went off to medical school when I was 17. What I knew that they didn't, however, was the Marcel of before, the golden youth of our childhood together.
He was four years older and a magnificent athlete: good ballplayer, great sailor and the most elegant skier I'd ever seen. But he was generous with his gifts. He taught me most everything I ever learned about every sport I ever played. He taught me how to throw a football, hit a backhand, grip a 9-iron, field a grounder, dock a sailboat in a tailing wind.

He was even more generous still. Whenever I think back to my childhood friends -- Morgie, Fiedler, Klipper, the Beller boys -- I realize they were not my contemporaries but his. And when you're young, four years is a chasm. But everyone knew Marcel's rule: "Charlie plays." The corollary was understood: If Charlie doesn't play, Marcel doesn't play. I played. From the youngest age he taught me to go one-on-one with the big boys, a rare and priceless gift.
And how we played. Spring came late where we grew up in Canada, but every year our father would take us out of school early to have a full three months of summer at our little cottage in the seaside town of Long Beach, N.Y. For those three months of endless summer, Marcel and I were inseparable, vagabond brothers shuttling endlessly on our Schwinns from beach to beach, ballgame to ballgame. Day and night we played every sport ever invented, and some games, such as three-step stoopball and sidewalk spaldeen, we just made up ourselves. For a couple of summers we even wangled ourselves jobs teaching sailing at the splendidly named Treasure Island day camp nearby. It was paradise.

There is a black-and-white photograph of us, two boys alone. He's maybe 11, I'm 7. We're sitting on a jetty, those jutting piles of rock that little beach towns throw down at half-mile intervals to hold back the sea. In the photo, nothing but sand, sea and sky, the pure elements of our summers together. We are both thin as rails, tanned to blackness and dressed in our summer finest: bathing suits and buzz cuts. Marcel's left arm is draped around my neck with that effortless natural ease -- and touch of protectiveness -- that only older brothers know.

Whenever I look at that picture, I know what we were thinking at the moment it was taken: It will forever be thus. Ever brothers. Ever young. Ever summer.

My brother Marcel died on Tuesday, Jan. 17. It was winter. He was 59.