Nathan is a rabbi. Joe was a cantor. I have many of their recordings, all of which are treasures—full of grace, hope, compassion and love. Both had gorgeous voices, and the way their voices harmonized, being brothers, was impeccable. Making music together and teaching life’s lessons through their music were the core of both their lives.
Then, more than 25 years ago, again before I ever met him, Joe was injured in a car accident while traveling out of the United States. Joe suffered a terrible brain injury and was a long way from sophisticated medical treatment when it happened. Close to death, Joe was ultimately transferred to high-tech medical facilities. Many people fought for Joe and Joe survived.
Who we are, far more than what we do, has the power to lift the world.
As a result of his brain injury, Joe’s physical abilities were deeply compromised. Nathan, who is a physical therapist as well as a rabbi, decided that he would work with Joe night and day to help Joe recover. Never before or since have I seen love between two brothers as deep as that between Joe and Nathan.
And Nathan worked with Joe and worked with Joe. And other highly skilled people worked with Joe. Joe recovered many things, but he did not recover the ability to stand alone, walk, sing, or have enough breath under his words to talk easily. Joe, once a hale and energetic man, was no longer able to do so many of the things he loved, especially to make music with his brother.
Most of us would be angry and disagreeable in the face of this sudden change in the course of our lives. We might compare ourselves to others. We might sit and dream that if only this accident or illness had not happened to us, we could be somebody useful or important. We might say we were no longer sufficient to do something truly worthwhile. Joe was not angry or disagreeable, and he did not waste time or energy with “if onlys”. Every day when he woke, Joe counted his blessings, full of gratitude for another day. Joe did not run from who he had become. He embraced the life he had. Joe was fully, gracefully, beautifully himself, just as he was.
We think we have to do dramatic things in order to change the world, to make a place for ourselves and to be a benefit to the lives around us. But we don’t. The deepest impact we can have on the people who touch our lives is not what we do, but rather how we choose to be. Whether or not Joe, knowing this, made a deliberate choice, I’ll never know. What I do know is that Joe made that choice and that Joe’s presence, accepting himself just as he was, fully embracing the life he had, changed my life for the better more than anything else Joe could have done.
My heart and mind are full of visions of being with Joe, of talking with him, of studying Hebrew by his side, of watching him up on a stage, on his feet, being held upright by Nathan, as Nathan sang a blessing and of Joe, with his limited breath, smiling for all he was worth, doing his best to sing along with Nathan. What fills my memories of Joe is Joe’s gratitude for life, his spontaneous joy, the fullness of him, his deep inner peace. All of these things had nothing to do with the way Joe’s body moved.
Who we are, far more than what we do, has the power to lift the world—to make a lasting difference. Joe taught me this. I will be forever grateful for the privilege of knowing Joe and having had the opportunity to be in his radiant presence. All of us can learn this lesson from Joe. We can realize that if we choose, we can cultivate our own gratitude, compassion and inner peace, and in doing so change the world, right now, just as we are. We each can make a difference.
Article Source: psychologytoday.com