The Actual Dance is a play that presents the events of the year 2000 from the point of view of the spouse of the woman going through breast cancer. From diagnosis to her life as a survivor, Susan Simon, my wife has endured. She is an unlikely survivor, at least according to her doctors. What is presented in The Actual Dance is the story of that experience from my perch. The husband. A man whose experience with breast cancer has been that it never turns out well. Moreover, death has been somewhat of a constant companion in my life. My memory of loss goes back to when I was 4 years old, with grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, as well as parents, being lost to various diseases, but mostly cancer. My reaction to Susan’s diagnosis in retrospect is not surprising. Of course, in my mind, it never was going to end well. But I’m getting a little ahead of the story.
Day 8: Music Heals “It is the tradition in our Reform Jewish synagogue for the Rabbi to read out loud at Kabbalat Shabbat, Friday night services, the names of congregants who are ill. The congregation then chants a prayer asking God for the healing of body and soul of those who are in need of such healing.” The Actual Dance
Yesterday I asked “who do you call” when you get bad news? Where do you go for support when confronted with an existential crisis? In the play, and in fact, the choice was our Jewish reform Temple Rodef Shalom.
Today I want to focus on the role that music and ritual played in helping me navigate these troubling waters. There are rituals in the Jewish community to support people who are ill and their families. The one I love most is the chanting of the Misheberach at our Friday night services. The ritual is one of reading out loud the name of people in the congregation who are ill and then chanting the prayer asking for the healing of body and spirit.
I can remember even today 18 years later, the first time that Susan's name was read aloud and the Congregation chanted, as we did, this beautiful prayer. We were sitting "in the same seats we have been sitting for the last 27 years." It reminded me of how fragile life is and made me wonder what it might be like sitting in that same seat alone, without her. Yet it was comforting to know that everyone around us was on our side asking God for the healing of Susan’s body and spirit.
The Misheberach tune we like to chant is the one written by the late Debbie Friedman. You can hear her sing it here.
Stat of the Day: According to Breastcaner.org in 2018 there will be about 266,100 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed this year! That is 10,000 more than last year!
Task of the Day: Listen to music. Music can calm the mind and open the heart. By itself and especially in quiet places it can transform your heart and brings peace even in the most troubled times. Check out some of my favorites: Snatam Kaur Shastro’s Shamans Healing Loreena Mckennitt
Resource of the Day: Check out this create resource Healing Harmonies: Music as Medicine for Seniors and Caregivers. Not only good tips but a nice list of “13 Theme Songs for Caregivers.”
The Actual Dance: Performances. Donate.