Heschel: “Prepare a spiritual income for old age”

There is a marvellous little essay called “To Grow in Wisdom” in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence.

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Retiring the Idea of Waiting for Retirement

When I was in high school, a family friend of ours died quite suddenly and unexpectedly in her mid-50s. She was the mother of a close friend of mine and our moms had been good friends throughout our whole lives.

This woman was very devoted to her family and to her work. She seemed to do everything in order. And yet, she was also someone who seemed to always be waiting for retirement to do several of the things she longed to do most.

She would often say, “When I retire…” and express her hopes and dreams for what she would do with greater leisure, time, and money.

It was striking, then, when she died relatively young because one of the things that hit me most as a high schooler was that she was never going to do these things she had put off.

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Emails from the Dead

Some years ago, I dreamt that my mom began receiving emails from my grandfather. They arrived sporadically because they had been auto-scheduled by him to be delivered to us on different dates in the future after his death. For fun, he used a pseudonym formed from aspects of his early life. The electronic letters always included at least one of the humorously crass jokes he’d so delight in telling at the dinner table, especially when clergy were over for dinner. The letters mentioned each of us in turn; first, my mom, then me, then my brother, then my dad. Every time an email of this nature would arrive, my family would all gather around my mom’s computer to read it as if it were “news” for us. Even though the email letters always had the same style and structure – a few jokes, some affirmations of our respective courses in life, and a reminder of his love, receiving them as emails made them seem exciting; we had no idea how many epilogues there would be.