She loved the Shema. Sometimes, during our phone conversations we took the prayer apart. “The first word is ‘hear.’” Why not ‘listen’? Could we say both?”
‘And ‘Israel.’ Why not put my own name in? Isn’t this prayer all about me, what I should hear or know?”
“In the middle, why do you think God’s name is repeated three times? Makes it all very holy.”
“And that final word. Echad. It means so much more than one. It is the unity of all.”
Judie sang the prayer to her non-Jewish friends. She even burst into it in rich alto tones as others in her congregation recited their own group prayer. This prayer was the center of her being.
And so, as she approached her death, I mentioned this to a friend of mine. “You know how important it will be for her to hear those words as she dies?” my friend remarked. Be sure someone with her at that time knows to say it so she can hear it..
And six months later, I was told she was close to death. “She does not respond to us. She is restless. We believe she will die soon.
I replied, “Then it is important for someone to say the shema to her.?”
“What is that?”
“The central prayer in Judaism. Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai echad.”
“I should say that to her now?”
‘You could say the English words. ‘Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’”
“Let me write that down.” We paused in our phone conversation while the woman searched for pen and paper.
The next morning I got the call I had known was coming. “Judie died peacefully last evening.” The woman paused. “I need to tell you. Right after you and I got off the phone, I went to Judie. Told her I had spoken to you, you wanted me to say that prayer. She was not in this world. She was not responding to anything. She was restless. I said to her, ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.’ Her body stilled. In a voice, bright, and clear she said the Hebrew words. “Shema Yisrael!” Her body calmed. She passed on within the hour.”
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"