John Lennon sang these words in his sweet song, Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” I had planned to share with you today some thoughts about my 20th-anniversary celebration last Saturday night and all the joy and naches that washed over me. I was filled with such gratitude for all that has come to me through the love of my congregation and by God’s grace. I also had planned to share my 20th-anniversary remarks with you.
While I was busy making plans, our beloved rabbi emeritus, Bob Miller, died today. I don’t know quite what to say. It did not come as a shock – I knew he would be dying soon. It’s the actual finality of it all, the reality of this loss, which hurts so much.
We assume that some people in our lives will always be there for us, that they will never leave. Rabbi Miller filled up so much space. His fabulous laughter. His warmth and desire to really know people. His voice, which got louder as his hearing diminished. How could such a vibrant soul not be there always, like a beacon, a warm source of goodness?
But, of course, this feeling that someone will never leave is selfish – and wrong. There are no guarantees. In fact, the only guarantee is that we are finite; we will all die.
Rabbi Miller and I spoke last on Wednesday. He was foggy and exhausted, yet he wanted to know how the 20th-anniversary celebration had gone. I described the event, and he kvelled. I told him that I had acknowledged how I had come into what had been his world for almost three decades and proceeded to change things: a lot. He shook his head. “Every rabbi has to be true to himself. I brought new ideas with me when I got to Beth Avodah. You did the same; it’s the only way it can be.” Such a gracious soul…
“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” I didn’t realize that today I’d be dealing with the death of my mentor, my emeritus, my friend. I am so sad. And I am so grateful that our lives intersected. I will never forget his kindness, his wisdom, and his teachings. I pray that his memory shall always be a blessing.