An Ode to Doris Bass Delivered Friday, July 25, 2013


Would that all of us could do now what we did when we were 25.  


Would that all of us could do what we did when we were 30


Or 40 Or 50 or 60 or 70.


Would that we could.


You get the idea.  


The older you get, there is always another time in your life that you can compare today to when you were


thinner/happier/better looking/had more money/didn’t hurt as much.


You get the idea.


Unfortunately, none of us live in “that time” anymore.  


We all live in the exact moment that we are, as we are, at whatever age we are.


Would that we could turn back time.


Alas, time moves only in one direction.


Still, it is in moments like these, where we acknowledge time’s passage, that we can take stock of how time has improved us.


The acceptance of our “now” is a great place to be--


for in that acceptance we realize that our one unique human body that carries us through life changes over time.  


What our bodies may have done at one age may not work now--or might work better.  It just depends on what the “it” is.


If you are alive, you are aging.  


And if you reach a certain age, like 50, the AARP comes after you, which is a wake up call to those who are turning or have turned 50.  How are they so good at knowing that?!!


A few decades down the road, when people are older and still active other issues come into play--we might weigh more or less than we’d like to, our bones might ache more, our mobility might be impaired, our joints might need a replacement or two.  We have lived more life, had more love, experienced more losses, grown in wisdom.


Dr. Sherwin Nuland, a nice Jewish doctor from Yale, writes in his book The Art of Aging of the privilege of reaching later life.  It is a time, he says, for squeezing maximum meaning out of it.


Still humans who are alive in this period of life--let’s say the mid-seventies and forward-- often quote the sublime Bette Davis who said, “Aging is not for sissies.”  


Nuland may or may not agree with Ms. Davis’ astute observation.  He does, however, write that like all other phases of life it has its bodily changes, its deep concerns, and its good reasons for hope and optimism.


Aging presents its own slew of challenges that are unique to this phase of life, but Nuland also points out that one can never look back over one’s life without there ever being some kind of challenge.  


Nuland writes:


“Realizing how much of our dreams we must concede to that unalterable truth (that is, aging), we should not only watch our horizons come closer but allow them to do precisely that.


“Everything within those boundaries becomes more precious than it was before: love, learning, family, work, health, and even the lessened time itself. We cherish them more, as the urgency increases to use them well.”


And what better way to use this time than by focusing on relationships with others.  Instead of living in isolation, one of the most important aspects to sacred aging is relationships.  


Being in the presence of other people may not be Ponce de Leon’s “Fountain of Youth”--but it is a different kind of fountain:  a fountain of engagement, a fountain of caring, a fountain of intellect, a fountain of exploration, a fountain of blessings.


Being in relationship with others allows one to connect with people of different ages, in different circumstances, to stay engaged with the world.  


Nuland writes, “Even as age licks our joints and lessens our acuities, it brings with it the promise that there can in fact be something more, something good, if we are but willing to reach out and take hold of it. It is in the willingness and the will that the secret lies, not the secret to lengthening a life but to rewarding it for having been well used. For aging is an art. The years between its first intimations and the time of the ultimate letting go of all earthly things can—if the readiness and resolve are there—be the real harvest of our lives.”


So let’s talk about the sacred aging of one of our most beloved ICM members.


Doris Bass.


Doris, all of us are here tonight to commemorate the extraordinary life that you have, you who are showing all of us that aging can be done with great dignity, with abundant class, and abounding energy.  


To you 85 may be a big number--to us, it is an opportunity to rejoice that you have reached this milestone, to praise you for all that you are and to thank you for all that you do for so many of us.


You revel in life.  You love your children and  your grandchildren.  You love your family of choice, all of us who are here tonight.  You love your family on the Mountain.  


You are darn near unstoppable and all of us are grateful that you are always there.  


You are an encompassing presence in all that you do here at ICM.


Look around you, Doris.  See all of the people here who love you and are grateful for your being in the world.


On this significant birthday, we thank you for who you are, for what you do, and we look forward to spending many more days with you.


Happy birthday, dear Doris.  May you continue to be blessed with life, health, love, and all that allows you to create meaning in each and every one of your days.

© 2017- 2019

Rabbi David Novak