“Know from where you come and to where you are going: to the Holy One.” – excerpted from Ethics of the Fathers 3:1
Unlike anyone my age that I know, death is a huge motivator for me.
About six years ago, I was thinking about becoming a full time musician but was terrified of taking the leap. I remember driving home alone from the shiva house (house of mourning) for the family of a woman in my community who had been a complete powerhouse – strong, vibrant, passionate. She passed away at the age of 54.
As I drove home (well, in circles actually), I had tears streaming down my face. In that moment, I understood to my core that I couldn’t mess around forever. I could no longer hide behind mediocrity and fear. I couldn’t blame others for my own failure to move forward with my music. If I was going to continue to be unhappy, it was because I was making a decision to do so. I realized that, at some unknown point, this would all be over and that would be that. It could be next week, next year, or in 60 years. Who knows?
Within three months I was working full time as a musician.
Knowing that this journey on Earth will end at some point and in some way over which I likely have no control keeps me focused on what is important: How do I want my kids to remember me? What can I teach them? How can I help them succeed? Beyond that, I really don’t care. Will the rest of the world remember me or not? Who cares.
Carrying an awareness that this could all end or be drastically changed for me at any time severely dampens my interest in getting involved in unfolding dramas or anything that’s out of my control. There’s certainly no time to be a perfectionist. And, instead of expending energy to care what others think of me and my music, I’ve chosen to expend my energy living my life and creating music.
I wrote this song immediately after returning from my grandmother’s funeral and shiva earlier this month. This song is my tribute to her. My grandmother was an accomplished pianist who was unable to play in her later years due to arthritis. Not surprisingly, upon returning home, I also filmed this video about the connection between creativity and healing. Ask any artist and they will tell you about the power of the creative process to heal.
My grandmother lived a long, full life. In her teens, she and her family escaped the Nazis and traveled from Vienna to Paris to Morocco to Montevideo to New York. She literally had diamonds sewn into the soles of her shoes. After a journey that lasted well over a year, her family finally made it to New York, where she met a young Rabbi from Texas, a third-generation American. Together they later settled in Portland, Oregon, where they both lived until their deaths.
I miss my Oma. I miss speaking with her on Fridays before Shabbat. I miss my Opa, too, who died seven years ago. I can’t believe they are both gone.
My grandmother was the last of her generation. She showed me and all her family nothing but love. I trust that she is with her beloved and her parents and siblings once again.
And with the Holy One.
Julie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting music. She has been releasing one new music video a month since June of 2013. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com.