Posts Tagged With: death

Reb Zalman Has Gone Home


Rebbe Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Founder of the Jewish Renewal and Spiritual Eldering Movements. Rabbi of my rabbis. At the Aspen Peace Conference in November 2008. Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

News just reached me that Reb Zalman (Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal Movement and my rabbi’s rabbi) died this morning in Colorado.

He was a magnificent human being, one whose light and wisdom and grace shaped the lives of two of the most important people in mine: Rabbi Allen Secher and Rebbetzin Ina Albert.

Several years ago, I spent a few magical days with Reb Zalman in Aspen and celebrated Shabbas with him at a Peace Conference — a ritual he invited all to participate in, as was his way, including an imam who was also in attendance at the conference. It was one of the more consciously transcendent experiences of my life, for which I ever will be grateful to the Rebbe.

May God comfort those who knew him best, and may his light and love emanate forever.

We transmit our wisdom to future generations.  This process not only seeds the future, but crowns an elder’s life with worth and nobility.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Learn more about Reb Zalman and his legacy HERE.


Reb Zalman and Imam Mohammed at the Aspen Peace Conference, 2008. Photo by CF.


Reb Zalman giving Shabbas challah to Imam Mohammed Bashar Arafat at the Aspen Peace Conference, 2008. Photo by CF.


Shabbas wine and candles at the Aspen Peace Conference, 2008. Photo by CF.

Categories: GODSTUFF | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



The curse of a journalist is never having enough room for everything in one piece. It’s an art of subtraction that often is a painful but necessary practice.

So here’s something Nadia said that I wanted to share but didn’t have space for in the original column. After her reading/riffing at All Saints last week, during the Q&A someone asked her about grief.

I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of my father’s death (I loved him more than life itself) and what Nadia said is

1) true and

2) actually helpful.

Nadia answered:

I have nothing other than grief is such a such a disfiguring process. And speed it up or deny that that’s true is to not honor it. And there is no way through but through. Sometimes all that somebody needs to is someone to go through it with them. Not to give them platitudes, not to try to speed it up. That’s it. That’s all I got. There is no magic there. It just sucks.


A few minutes before that, while talking about something else, she also said the following, which will stay with me a long time, grief, grieving or not.

I’m almost always stricken by an experience of God. Broken into a million pieces and put back together.

Amen, sister.

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Dragonflies, Death, and the More

I needed to hear this today. Maybe you do, too.

Categories: God Nods | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

That’s Exactly How This Grace Thing Works

Mumford & SonsRoll Away Your Stone

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals

Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home
that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart

Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek

Stars hide your fires,
And these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found
with my steak stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul
hide your fires,
these are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found
with my steak stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul

But you, you’ve gone too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine

Categories: God Nods, GODSTUFF | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

DJ JEFF’S SPINTASMS: Springsteen’s tribute to Warren Zevon ~ “My Ride’s Here”

It’s been seven years (today) since Warren Zevon made his Homegoing.

How appropriate that DJ Jeff popped up with Springsteen’s rendition of Zevon’s “My Ride’s Here“?

I’ve always loved this song. And boy do I miss Mr. Zevon and his beautiful gift of storytelling.

May he be enjoying the Gloryland to the fullest.

Bless him.


By the late, great Warren Zevon

I was staying at the Marriott
With Jesus and John Wayne
I was waiting for a chariot
They were waiting for a train
The sky was full of carrion
“I’ll take the mazuma”
Said Jesus to Marion
“That’s the 3:10 to Yuma
My ride’s here…”

The Houston sky was changeless
We galloped through bluebonnets
I was wrestling with an angel
You were working on a sonnet
You said, “I believe the seraphim
Will gather up my pinto
And carry us away, Jim
Across the San Jacinto
My ride’s here…”

Shelley and Keats were out in the street
And even Lord Byron was leaving for Greece
While back at the Hilton, last but not least
Milton was holding his sides
Saying, “You bravos had better be
ready to fight
Or we’ll never get out of East Texas tonight
The trail is long and the river is wide
And my ride’s here”

I was staying at the Westin
I was playing to a draw
When in walked Charlton Heston
With the Tablets of the Law
He said, “It’s still the Greatest Story”
I said, “Man, I’d like to stay
But I’m bound for glory
I’m on my way
My ride’s here…”

Categories: DJ JEFF'S SPINTASMS | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment



Gracefully, she put her head down on the pillow, took a few gentle breaths and then she was gone.  Her spirit had moved on — passing through the veil to the eternal place where I believe a communion of saints joyfully awaited her arrival.

I felt her leave.

It was something I’d never experienced before this week, despite having lost many people dear to me over the years. I hadn’t been there for those moments where life moves into death and the spirit departs.

Bearing witness to her homegoing was profoundly sacred. I felt honored to be with her in that holy place, to tell her how much we loved her and how much joy she had brought to all who knew her, to tell her not to worry and that it was okay to go to the place where the pain would be gone and she could run and swim and play again.

“Say hi to everybody for us,” I whispered into her velvety ear. “We love you.”

Sitting there on the floor, next to Genevieve’s great pillow, each with a hand on her body, her uncle offered a spontaneous prayer thanking the Creator for making such a marvelously sweet, patient and loyal friend and for blessing our lives with her company.

Rarely have I felt a more holy moment.

Genevieve was about 10 years old when she passed on Tuesday morning.

A beautiful blonde with huge, soulful brown eyes, she was a consummate swimmer — taking daily dips in the ocean near here home here in southern California. How appropriate that one translation of her name means “white wave.”

Surely she was a white wave of devotion, a constant companion and loving guardian to her adoptive family of four.

Genevieve also happened to have been a dog, a golden Labrador.

Reflecting on what transpired in the moments before and after her death, she seemed like so much more than “just” a dog. She was, like her eyes, soulful. C.S Lewis pondered aloud about such “soulish” creatures and whether they, like us, live on in the hereafter.

Genevieve wasn’t my dog. She belonged to a family that my family counts among our dearest friends in the world. Sadly, when G, as she was known, fell ill, her family was out of the country and couldn’t make it back in time for her homegoing.

When I say it was an honor to be with G at the end, it truly was that. I felt I was standing in proxy for her family who couldn’t be there physically but who were praying for her from so many miles away.

“There is no distance in the spirit,” I thought, stroking G’s thick, butterscotch-colored coat. “They’re here, too.”

It feels crass to refer to such soulish animals as “pets” and their families as “masters.” No wonder St. Francis of Assisi referred to animals as his “sisters and brothers.”

Some of the more jaded or theologically stuffy among us might find it the height of absurdity to be talking about the death of a dog in such sacred terms. But I was there and I know what happened.

God was in that room, too. God’s spirit gave that dog life and when it was time to move on to her eternal rest, the spirit left G’s body and she — the essential thing that made Genevieve herself — was gone. I call that her spirit.

Do dogs go to heaven? When my 10-year-old son asked me that earlier this week, I said yes. “G is in heaven, honey,” I told him. Despite a general uneasiness around dogs — especially big dogs — he adored G. She was special. Careful. Grace-filled.

I love the answer Billy Graham gave when asked a similar question about dogs and the hereafter some years ago: “God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there”

Do animals have spirits that live on after death, like humans do? I think so, yes.

Jesus came to redeem the world entire and that, in my mind, means everybody and every thing. So why not the four-legged creations sent as our companions?

Even Martin Luther seemed to think so and I’m not  going to argue theology with the father of the Reformation.

“Be thou comforted, little dog,” Luther said. “Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.”


Categories: GODSTUFF | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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