Taking It a Half Day at a Time

Brian Mayer
Dean, School of Jewish Music
Sept. 4, 2013

ambulanceI don't know about you, but I am not so good at the "take-it-one-day-at-a-time" approach to life. People constantly voice this sentiment, and everyone around them usually nods in agreement. Sounds like a good way to live.

I, however, am always thinking ahead: planning, planning, planning. I worry about what I have to get done, and even more so, what I haven’t gotten done! I suspect I'm not the only one who experiences life this way.

Four weeks ago, I was vacationing at a resort in the Berkshires with my sons and my parents. For Shabbat, my folks went to shul in Pittsfield, because my mother had Yahrzeit for my grandmother. At about 1:30, I noticed that my parents hadn't returned, but assumed they were lingering at the kiddush.

My boys and I decided to play some tennis and headed to the courts. As we were leaving the building, the resort manager approached me and asked if I was the son of Howard and Judith Mayer.  

"Your parents were in a car accident. They are headed to Berkshire Medical Center by ambulance."

My world stopped. I had to get to the hospital. The kids needed someone to stay with them. Were my parents OK?

It was a horrific accident. Three cars, major collision at considerable speed, two cars totaled, airbags everywhere, five ambulances and two fire trucks. It was like a scene from a scary movie.

I rushed to the ER and found my parents. My mom was on a board and her neck was in a brace. My dad was traumatized, but seemed to be in one piece.

Every six to 12 hours, things changed. Tests, examinations, vital signs, X-rays, CT scans, hours of waiting for the results. Were they OK?

I started to live life a half day at a time. I had no clue what was coming next. My kids wanted answers. I wanted answers, but I slowed down and focused on "the here and now." It was a revelatory experience, not expecting to stay on a schedule, not being able to plan beyond the coming 12 hours. I was living in the moment, and life was beyond my control.

I realize that not knowing what the future holds is true all of the time. Why is it that this truth is so hard to hold onto in everyday life? The Psalmist wrote, "Teach us to number our days so that we may attain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90)." Ancient sage advice; the wise heart is the one that cherishes the time we have, in the present.

Miracle of miracles: no fatalities, no permanent injuries to any of the five people in the accident, my parents included. I am so grateful to the Holy One for the miracle that could have been a nightmare. I am also trying to continue to live a half day at a time. Good way to start the New Year.