Taboo discussions you should have soon

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

Her wish was to die. And she did. But not before covering her eyes and reciting the shema as her family was gathered around her. Someone later asked me what caused her death. “A broken heart” is how I responded. I knew it was so. Her beloved husband had been buried less than two weeks prior. Her life had known more pain than anyone should ever experience. But she held on for her husband.

I visit a lot of people whose pain for the loss of a loved one is more than they can stand. They know of no reason to live. If I mention their children or grandchildren, they say they have their own lives and they will be ok. The human will to live or die is stronger than any human being can comprehend.

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Over the years, I have come to appreciate that individuals need to have authority, and to a great extent, control over their choices. Too many family members overstep boundaries and make decisions their loved one does not want. We read and hear about advanced directives and living wills but do we take the time to discuss our wishes and take the actions needed?

I suggest that the time for these discussions, including organ donations, is before our loved one is covering their eyes and praying. We need to be aware of other’s wishes and make ours known as well. Two of the best classes I took in Rabbinical School were about Death, Dying and Bereavement. Society makes it taboo to discuss these topics. Even more so, Jewish Law tells us not to discuss certain issues when a person is still alive.

We need to have these discussions. I urge you and those you care about to talk, to know and to understand.