As the Hebrew month of Tishrei begins to roll around, so do the Jewish High Holy days- Yom Kippur (sunset on September 22 this year) and Rosh Hashanah (sunset on September 13th this year) . As tradition has it, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, which happens on the second day of Tishrei, G-d inscribes the Jewish people into three books- a book of the wicked, a book of the righteous and a book of the intermediate. Those in the book of the righteous are automatically inscribed in the Book of Life and are sealed to live in the next year. Those in the intermediate book have the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to repent their sins and become righteous. The wicked aren't given a chance to repent and aren't inscribed in the book of life. On Yom Kippur, G-d seals the book of life and the fate of the Jewish people is sealed for the next year.
In thinking about the High Holy days myself, I can't help but think about my own health and my own mortality. About a month ago I had one of the scariest reactions I had ever had; not necessarily because of it's severity but because of the situation.
Last month, I had surgery on my neck to remove a benign lump that was on top of one of the peripheral lymph nodes in my neck. The procedure was simple but the doctor gave me general anesthesia because of it's proximity to my carotid artery. Luckily the surgery went great with no complications and I was sent home with my cousin to go "enjoy" the rest of my day. My cousin was kind enough to take me back to her house to keep an eye on me since the doctor said I couldn't be alone for 24 hours. I spent the first few hours back from the hospital playing with my cousins' dogs and eating cold popsicles in an attempt to make my sore throat feel better. Eventually, due to the remaining anesthesia in my system I fell asleep but my cousin woke me to give me pain medications since she said I was pulling at my bandage and wincing in my sleep. Because of the anesthesia still in my system I fell back into deep sleep after taking the pain meds. Unfortunately I started reacting to a food ingredient in the pain medication and I had an anaphylactic reaction in my sleep. Luckily my cousin heard me struggling to breathe, called 911 and was able to get me help. Had she not been there I would have slept right through the reaction and probably never would have woken up. I definitely have her to thank (as well as many other people) for my life.
As Yom Kippur rolls around, I can't help but think about all of g-d's angels, including my parents, my friends, my old teachers, my old school nurse and all the health care professionals who have helped save me from anaphylaxis and bad asthma attacks. What if they hadn't been there and I succumbed to my conditions? Would that mean I am wicked? What about my loved ones who have passed, does that mean they were wicked?
Recently, a friend shared an article with me about faith and EMS. The article discussed the idea of G-d's plan (not a specific faith, but G-d in general) and how believing that G-d has a plan for everyone or that things happen for a reason can help pre-hospital providers rationalize and recover from some of the difficult things that they see. I guess I use that rationale for my own life too. I think G-d uses my health to show me that life isn't necessarily forever and that I should be thankful for every breath I get. (Dear G-d, if you are reading this, I think that I get the message and you can stop showing me now.)
I guess what I am trying to say is that no one is immortal. Good people and bad people die all of the time. Personally I try not to think about my own mortality too much but with life-treatening medical conditions it is definitely something I am reminded of too much.
I have big goals for myself and big dreams. I'm not going let food allergies and asthma be what puts me 6 feet under. I've still got lots of life left in me. That being said, the one thing that gives me comfort (in addition to my faith and all of the supportive people in my life) is that I try and live my life in the most righteous way I can. I don't have any special connections with G-d or special access to his books, but I am pretty confident I am not in the wicked book. My parent's and Quaker school raised me to be kind to others no matter who they are, to treat others with respect and dignity and to do the right thing. I know that I make mistakes and that sometimes I hurt those who I love. This Yom Kippur, like every other, I will be repenting my sins knowing that the guy up above is watching me and keeping me safe.