Rabbi Joseph Krakoff is involved with helping people reflect on their lives daily as part of the spiritual care the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network provides.
Reflecting on relationships is a part of the High Holidays every year, but it’s taken on a new meaning in the context of this past year.
The isolation brought about by the pandemic is challenging people to recalibrate and ask themselves what really matters at the end of the day: To reflect on what they can release and what overall relationships they can reengage with in a meaningful way.
For Rabbi Joseph Krakoff, senior director of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network (JHCN), these are questions that come up throughout the year. He’s involved with helping people reflect on their lives daily as part of the spiritual care the organization provides.
This gives people a chance to explore their lives and legacies — and allows JHCN clients to see the impact their lives have had and the ways they’ve lived with purpose.
However, this message, now more than ever, is for everybody, he explains, and part of more conversations because of the pandemic and the approaching new year.
“I think it can be very uplifting, especially going through a pandemic. It gives us a chance to step back and say, ‘wait a minute here, my life is a blessing,’ and ‘am I living my best life?’ — and if not, what do I have to do to make it happen,” he says. “Those are all opportunities to make positive changes.”
People don’t have to wait until the end of their lives to open the door to this kind of introspection and what adjustments they might want to make, he says.
It can be an optimistic and forward-thinking process, he adds, as people wake up to the message of living more in the moment, appreciating the moment and not putting things off because of life’s unpredictability. Exploring one’s relationships, connections to family, expressions of gratitude and the ability to put their authentic selves into their interactions are all meaningful places to start.
“It’s real and it’s relevant, as a result of what we’ve been through as a world. It resonates more powerfully than it may have resonated previously, with a larger swath of people.”
As the High Holidays approach, George Glassman of Sylvan Lake is thinking about the tight family bonds his late parents, Debbie and Jerry, valued so much. They instilled those values of family, and of being caring and compassionate, from the start. “That’s how we were raised,” he says. “My father lost both of his parents as a teen … for him, family was everything.”
He’s mindful of those messages every day. They were passed on to him and his siblings, and then to the next generation. As he and his sisters, Lenore and Judith, worked together to support their parents during the ends of their lives, their bond grew stronger. The whole family came together as a unit.
“It reinforced all the things we always knew were important,” he explains. “This was a perfect example of taking care of those who needed help.” It also highlighted the importance of being there for each other, he says.
“It was very comforting that we were all there together. Whether we were there for painting, singing, whatever it was, it was spending quality time.”
Glassman also savors the time Jerry spent interacting with great-granddaughter Elsa, and the intergenerational connection they had in the last weeks of his life. “It was this incredibly touching moment … there was this incredible bond,” he explains.
In dealing with loss, the holiday tropes are magnified, he says. He’s making sure to take the time to enjoy life and family — seeing his granddaughter, visiting with his daughter and son-in-law who recently moved back to Michigan, and more.
“You never forget, nor should you ever forget, those who have enriched our lives,” he says. “It’s a special time of year, a time of reflection — of reassessing what’s important, hopefully living the following year as a better person, and doing more good for others.”