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Just Another Stage of Life

I’ve never been much for praying. In fact, I’ve never been much for believing that there is a being who created us. I believe in science, in proof, in evidence. But this year I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to believe in God in order to pray. Why? Because if it helps others for me to pray for them, then God will know that it’s a just prayer; a prayer meant for someone else and not for me.

This year has been a tumultuous year, both good and bad. The year started off with the passing of my paternal grandmother and is supposedly ending with the joyous occasion of my wedding. (I’ll get to the supposedly in a moment). However, in between, I have stood in the batter’s box of life and have fouled off innumerable curveballs.

As noted above, the first curveball was the death of my grandmother in February (19 years plus a day after the death of her second son, my uncle, at the age of 36). While her death wasn’t unexpected, it was heartbreaking, nonetheless. I watched my father take care of his parents in a way that I hope I never have to. I’ve peppered some insights about my grandfather in other posts, but I can’t stress enough of how marvelous this man is. He turns 91 in February, has a full set of hair and is a Holocaust survivor. Over the past couple of years he has slowed down, but still quick enough to care for his wife, my grandmother. My dad, my hero, has travelled to Queens every weekend to help my grandparents — whether to pay bills or just to sit and talk. I would sometimes go with him to the nursing center that housed my grandmother (my grandfather would walk the several blocks every day to be by her side) to offer my support. I have learned that grandparents love the sound of their grandchildren’s voices, so I if I couldn’t make it to the nursing facility, I would call just to say hi and bullshit. Since the funeral, my dad still goes to visit my grandfather every weekend, but the strain of driving and being away from my mom has had, I’m sure, a deep effect on both of my parents. Just another stage of life.

Throughout the year I was blessed to be a part of many of my friends’ weddings. Such happy times. For most of them (of which my wallet is a bit lighter) I was a groomsman, standing along my best friends watching as they entered the Chuppa, the canopy that symbolizes the home the couple will build together. I would try to look out into the crowd to spot my fiance, most of the time coming up empty. However, during the times I was not in the bridal party, I would hold her hand during the service thinking about our wedding day. These weddings were when I was thrown a fastball and put the ball in play — sometimes a homerun, sometimes just a single — but never an out.

Some of my happiest moments in my life came this year — bachelor parties that only those involved in can truly understand, the aforementioned weddings, camping trips with the guys and of course, fantasy football. There were some births this year, and I’m still amazed that my friends who I’ve known for 20 years are now procreating. Just another stage of life.

However, life decided to throw me a curveball in late September when I was laid off from my job. Living in NYC during the worst economic times in 60 years has helped put some perspective on what’s important. But the stress of being unemployed mixed with the stress of planning a wedding poses dialectical tensions in my brain. On one hand, I am glad to be out of the place I was working at. On the other, I miss having a paycheck. Organizing a wedding when trying to organize your life is an exercise that hopefully will make me stronger. Just another stage of life.

But today I got a call that compounded these events into one giant ball of stress: I was told my maternal grandmother will most likely not make it through the week. Two weeks ago, she fell, broke her hip and her shoulder and we resigned ourselves to the fact that she wouldn’t be coming to the wedding. We were upset, of course, but knowing that we would be able to at least show her the ceremony via DVD lessened the hurt, so to speak. However, she contracted a virus at the hospital and has gotten progressively worse. And now I’m having discussions with my parents about the possibility that she could die between now and Saturday. Everyone’s on edge. And this brings me back to prayer.

Prayer, for many, can be cathartic. I’ve never understood talking to an invisible person, but that’s the cold, analytic self. But, as I said before, I think that those of us who don’t believe in God can still pray. Because if the person you are praying for believes, why shouldn’t you do everything in your power to help. Even if it means talking to yourself. So tonight, for the first time that I can remember, I will pray for my grandmother to heal. I will pray that my mom can carry the weight of her son’s wedding and the death of her mother.

My parents’s generation is unique in that they have taken care of their children longer than their parents took care of them. Hell, I wasn’t totally self-sufficient until my mid-20s. But once I was ‘free’, my parents had to continue to play parent for their parents. I feel like my mom and dad haven’t had time to breathe in a very long time. Life cycles are getting longer and middle-aged now means that you are care giver and provider for the generation before you and the generation after you. My parents have been in one stage of life for a long time and it pains me that they cannot move into their golden years (my dad, who just celebrated his 58th birthday, would disagree that he’s heading into his golden years). But as I enter my wedding week, I’m hoping that a fastball comes down the middle of the plate for my parents. And for that, I will pray.

This is a bit different than my normal diatribes, but this is what is weighing heavily on my mind right now, so I thank you for taking the time to read this and I’ll get back to my normal, pedantic and esoteric posts shortly.

About joshsternberg

Josh Sternberg is the content strategist for The Washington Post. Prior to that he was the media reporter for Digiday. Additional bylines include: The Atlantic, The Awl, Pacific Standard, Mashable, Huffington Post, Mediaite.


2 thoughts on “Just Another Stage of Life

  1. Josh buddy,thanks for sharing what’s on your mind. The best kinds of blog posts are ones that strike an emotional chord.I know and have known you don’t believe in God, but whether you think it or not– someone is listening. For me, it’s Jesus. For one friend of mine, it’s Siddhartha Gautama. Regardless, please take heart and peace in knowing someone is listening.If you’d like, here’s a verse that helped me when my mom passed in 05. 2 Corinthians 3-7Know I am thinking and sending the smoke signals up for you and your family now! Thinks WILL look up.Tim

    Posted by Tim Otis | December 18, 2008, 3:43 pm


  1. Pingback: William Sternberg – 1918-2012 « The Sternberg Effect - May 8, 2012

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