In the recent wave of terror currently washing over Israel, I palpably feel the brevity and uncertainty of life. The horrifying reality is that whatever are the random forces that orchestrate that one person will cross the path of the bullet or blade, and another will walk peacefully, could just as easily have been reversed.
The fact is, tomorrow it could be me. It doesn’t matter how often I look over my shoulder, or whether I carry pepper spray in my bag. We comfort ourselves that if we act with more precaution, or if we don’t stand in crowded bus stops, or if we feel just too damn important to die, we will be safe from death’s cold grasp. With each passing day that we are left unharmed our belief in our ability to evade doom strengthens. But deep down we all know how utterly arbitrary it all is. The current climate in Israel, the seemingly endless stream of headlines confirming terror attacks, can frighten even the toughest amongst us. It is hard not to wonder when your luck will run out.
On that optimistic note I would like to clear some things up:
If my life is taken in a terror attack, please do not make me into a cause célèbre for your personal propaganda. Please do not use me as a pawn to promote whatever agenda you firmly believe in. Most of all please don’t use the phrase, so common to such tragedies: “May his blood be avenged.”
I don’t want my “blood to be avenged.” I don’t want more death to follow in the wake of mine. I don’t want my death to inspire you towards vengefulness and rage. If you would like to honor my passing, celebrate life.
Last week in Tel Aviv a young Israeli texted his father: “I’m having a good time. I love life.” A day later that life he so dearly loved would be stolen from him. I don’t know how 26-year-old Alon Bakal, would have wanted us to think about his death. Perhaps he wasn’t so morbid as to consider it. But rather than causing me to seek revenge or to wallow in hopelessness, Alon’s brief life inspires me.
He inspires me to love life with even more enthusiasm. He reminds me to consider how wonderful it is that I am breathing, that I feel the sunshine, or that I get to spend time with family and friends. He reminds me how brief this moment truly is before it is forever lost. Alon demands that I spend the time I have left living — being truly alive.
Of course, I understand the impulse to anger. I too hear the cry for justice that screams from within us all. I too have felt my stomach clench and pounded my fists on the wall in desperation. But beyond the anger, beyond the tears, there is a life that, in honor of Alon, I must live.
So here are some of my New Year’s resolutions, inspired by Alon:
I am going to remember to tell my family unceasingly that I love them with all heart. I am going to hold my daughter’s hand and cherish every second I have with her. I am going to have more fun with my wife and never stop calling her my best friend. I am going to drink whiskey with my close friends and talk until the late hours of the night. I am going to remember never to go to bed angry with someone I love. I am going to be kinder to the stranger on the street. I am going to take myself less seriously and try something new every once in a while. I am going to listen to some music, really listen, and let the sounds consume me. I am going to love deeper, laugh harder and sing louder. My new mantra for 2016 will be: “I am having a good time. I love life.”
A lot of people have given their lives so that I can live mine. It is my duty to them, to Alon, to grasp every moment of this life with undying vigor. And when my time comes, whenever that may be, I hope I’ll leave this world a little better than I found it.
Breathe in deep. We’re alive. Let’s remember to enjoy it while it lasts.