This past year has provided a clear reminder that you should never take anything for granted. So many places and people that were once regular parts of our life have been absent. Places that we used to visit often are now closed. (I’m thinking of you, Sweet Tomatoes.) Places that we wanted to go to no longer exist.
But it didn’t take experiencing a pandemic to realize this. Back in January 2001 I was visiting my cousin in New York and I had a choice of picking either visiting the Dakota Apartments and Strawberry Fields or the World Trade Center. Being a big John Lennon fan, I picked the first one, assuming I could visit the World Trade Center during my next visit. I never imagined that it wouldn’t exist by the end of the year. (However, I did visit the memorial site years later.)
Since then, I always make a point to not put things off when I’m traveling. But really it’s something that should regularly apply to daily life, too. For instance, if I have an opportunity to see a visiting family member when they’re in town, I rearrange plans to see them. If there’s something I really want to do, I try to find a way (not that there’s much happening these days and I haven’t been motivated to do much outside the house this past year…)
This week’s song, “You Never Know,” is also about appreciating each seemingly unremarkable moment because you don’t know when the opportunity will come up again. I started writing it during a visit to Los Angeles after being at the beach a couple days in a row. I like being at the beach but I’m not really a beach person, especially when at the time I had three fairly young kids so I was too nervous about them being swept away in the waves and I couldn’t relax. (That replaced my before-kids beach anxiety about the ocean due to seeing “Jaws” at a very young age.)
By the third beach day, it occurred to me that although we tend to visit the beach at least once a year, I didn’t really know when I’ll be back. I thought back to how quickly my mom’s life came to an end after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and how she wasn’t aware that her last beach visit was her last. She died right before Passover (her funeral was on erev Passover) and it always saddened me to think about her saying the “Next Year in Jerusalem!” line at the end of the seder the previous year – that not only did she never made it to Jerusalem, but she didn’t make it to the next Passover.
You never know when this will be the last time
You never know if you’ll pass this way again
Don’t take for granted the circumstances
That led you here, now that you’re here, jump in.
Here’s a video from 2018 of “You Never Know.”
Here is a live version with my friend Linda Enger at her synagogue’s Hanukkah Coffeehouse in 2017.