Surrounded by Leo, Ben, Vickie and Sarah before my surgery, November 29, 2012
Thanksgiving this year was wonderful. Sixteen relatives filled our house with laughter, mutual empathy and joy. Vickie made a fantastic meal, and it was a very special day.
Thanksgiving falls each year on the fourth Thursday in November, but for me—since 2012 and for as long as I live—Thanksgiving will always be November 29.
On that day in 2012 I was not sure whether I would live or die.
On that day Dr. Lars Svensson and his skilled surgical team at the Cleveland Clinic opened my chest to repair an ascending aortic aneurysm and at the same time replace a malfunctioning mechanical aortic valve with a tissue valve.
My Connecticut cardiologist, Dr. Robert Chamberlain, of blessed memory, did not overstate the case when he said, “You will feel like you have been hit by a truck.”
In addition to the physical pain and the prospect of a long recovery, there was nothing whatsoever on my professional calendar.
I was physically and emotionally devastated.
- I could not have imagined on that painful but life-saving day that four years later Vickie and I would have spent three months working in Milan and more than half a year—over a three year period—teaching and speaking in schools synagogues, churches and universities in Germany.
- I could not have imagined that I would finally publish the book I have been thinking about since 1975 and that it would be translated into German and Russian or that I would record it as an audio book.
- I could not have imagined that I would have published a second book as well.
- I also could not have imagined that I would publish 375 web page essays that thousands of people would read.
Many people held my hand and guided my steps from November 29, 2012, to today. I pray that they know who they are and that they know how deep my gratitude is.
While I am so very grateful for the opportunities given me, I realize that I have not ended world hunger, cured cancer, made peace between Israel and the Palestinians or solved any major world problems.
Still, I will always cherish the day in when I began my journey back from the physical and spiritual abyss.
I pray that there will be more days and more opportunities. And I pray the Eternal One will grant me the strength and the wisdom to use those opportunities to make this world—in ways however small—a more just, caring and compassionate place.