This time of year it’s common for people to be making “resolutions.”  They “resolve” to exercise, lose weight, spend more time with family, finish a project they have been working on etc.  All too often, the same resolutions need to be repeated each year, as people fail to satisfy the resolutions they made the previous year.

For cancer patients, and their families and loved ones, the view toward the coming year is different.  It’s more myopic.  Our resolutions are more basic and closer to the core.  We resolve to get through our treatments.  We resolve to maintain our spirits and our humor in the face of things that defeat our spirits and sap our mood.  But mostly, we resolve to live so that we can make our resolutions again next year.  Our goal for the coming year is simpler than most; we strive to have another year.

On Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year, we pray that God gives us another year of life and health.  One particularly powerful prayer that is said on our high-holidays discusses how on Rosh Hashanah God decides who will live and who will die, and that on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) he seals that fate. The prayer goes on to state that God decides who will die by fire, and who by water, who by starvation and who by plague, who will die at his destined time and who prematurely.  Since my cancer, this prayer touches me very profoundly (and it did so especially the year I was diagnosed, as I got out of the hospital and was going through chemotherapy right around the High Holidays).  There was a man who prayed in my synagogue who was a Holocaust survivor who lost his wife and children in Auschwitz.  When he came to America after the war he created a new family and founded a new life and legacy.  When we said this prayer the tears would stream down his face.  He felt very profoundly the precariousness of existence and the value of life and the gifts it can bring.  It’s a lesson he taught me — and one that I had to learn myself — so that I could truly appreciate what another good year was worth.

So, as this New Year’s day approaches, let’s all resolve to live as best we can through the coming year, and to meet the challenges ahead with vigor, humor and appreciation.  Moreover, let’s resolve to help each other realize our resolutions and celebrate next New Year’s Day together.

Happy New Year, and may it be blessed and healthy.  In healing,