Those of us who have been privileged to study the classics may (or may not) recall the great tomes of Shakespeare. And while some scholars (rightfully) argue that the Merchant of Venice is laced with anti-semitism, the fact remains that Shakespeare’s literary contributions are timeless; a reflection of society at large and that of the human condition.
“Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.”
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 11
To this day, when in need of “quiet contemplation and reflection”, I curl up with one or another of his masterpieces, as well as others of yesteryear.
To said end, it is a blessing to have access to a special someone’s home library, that is, a classically-styled oasis. In and of itself, it is befitting that it houses a plethora of the foremost literary classics – some of which are rare First Editions and an added treat. It is alongside these outstanding treasures that a mix of thought-provoking contemporary authors beckon. Shelves full of profound, uplifting, and otherwise inspirational texts on Jewish Thought and Philosophy – with Maimonides (AKA Rambam) being the most prominent and in the forefront – abound.
“Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still“
Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed
Thus, from time to time, it is among this potpourri of reads that I find myself deep in thought over the most existential question of all: “What Is The Meaning Of Life?” Musing.
More often than not, after pouring over this and that text, a soothed soul emerges. Yes, while reading alongside a cozy fireplace, a calming “stillness” and an immeasurable sense of inner peace comes to the fore. How could it not. Medicinal….just what “the doctor” ordered. So, relative to the most delicate and esoteric topic of all, namely,“the meaning of life”, when the need arises, I rely on a profusion of insights from this vast and eclectic menu of books. Two such representations are cited above and require little edification from this end.
In fact, most recently – in anticipation of two “trigger” dates, which happen to fall within the first three weeks in February – I became re-immersed in “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” (by Rabbi Harold Kushner, 1981), one of the many contemporary texts housed within. Indeed, as per the delicate arena of life and death, it is akin to a salve. More than healing. Mesmerizing.
Tellingly, it was in the midst of re-reading Rabbi Kushner’s personal journey through profound loss and grief that otherwise elusive thoughts became clarified – and, with it, an understanding that is as old as time.
In reality, few will escape the life-altering experience of losing a loved one. At said “appointed moment in time” and already reeling, those left behind may confront the aforementioned existential query, effectively, knocking the bereaved off kilter in the most unexpected ways. Adding to the inner turmoil, an untimely and sudden death also serves to heighten and exacerbate the loss. Oftentimes, this “bolt out of the blue” has been known to extend the stages of grief, thereby, delaying the recovery process. A double whammy.
Even so, in the most primal sense of all, it is the inevitable commonality of life and death which binds humanity together. This is the case, irrespective of one’s race, religion, gender, or station in life. Inescapable.
Still yet, a preponderance are not fortunate enough to possess (what amounts to as) a public megaphone; that which affords a unique vehicle to remember and honor one’s dearly departed.
In this respect, since the onset of this site in 2012 (as countless readers already recognize), the yahrzeit date of the passing of Frank Kutnicki (z”l, of blessed memory), my beloved late husband, has been reserved at these pages in his memory and honor. The related musings can be found here, here, here, here, and here.
Alas, now that I have reached a pivotal juncture in the healing process, a decision has been made to mark this moment in time as my “final (public) ode and tribute” – even though, privately, Frank Kutnicki (z”l, of blessed memory) will forever be remembered in countless ways, each and every day.
And it is in celebration of a life well lived that another decision has been made; one which will combine an enduring pursuit throughout his life (actually, a mental “sport”) with a charity that resonated within his heart alike. A win-win.
In this way, I am humbled to announce that “FRANK KUTNICKI’S CHESS CORNER“ is, with G-d’s help, being formed. It will be housed under the capable auspices of Chai Lifeline via its Jerusalem umbrella. As a global non-profit, he generously supported Camp Simcha (one of its programs) through Chai Lifeline’s NY/NJ arm.
(The much-prized chess board of Frank Kutnicki, of blessed memory….now in the hands of his beloved younger son.)
Realizing that many will wonder how this idea sprang to mind, simply, it relates back to the time spent in “quiet contemplation and reflection” – among others, one benefit thereof. Indeed, this “Aha Moment” is the positive side of the negatively associated “bolt out of the blue.”
As a chess champ at Stuyvesant High School in NYC (actually, the President of the Chess Club) and a stand-out scholar, I know how delighted he would be by this initiative. Smiling. Winking. As always, cheering “his Adinala” on – heartily so, in his uniquely “Frankie way.”
(A most treasured photo….taken at a restaurant in Brookline, MA, on the evening of our son’s graduation from MIT – as it capped off a weekend of enormous celebration and pride. Infectiously and unabashedly, he hooted and hollered – again, in his uniquely “Frankie way” – as his youngest picked up his diploma!)
Overarchingly, it is my utmost hope and prayer that “FRANK KUTNICKI’S CHESS CORNER“ will bring a bit of comfort, relief, normalcy, and distraction to the most vulnerable of all, the kiddies, as they undergo a host of frightening and painful rounds of cancer treatment(s). As a knock-on effect, it may become a fun activity and inspiring too. Who knows, chess may become a lifelong passion, as it was for the program’s namesake.
So, as a kick-start, my initial (and ongoing) charitable contribution will be targeted towards two clear benchmarks. Of course, this program will conform to Israel’s non-profit (AKA amuta/עמותה) guidelines. The following are said benchmarks, however, they can be augmented, if circumstances warrant:
- Firstly, a suitably patient (that would exclude me – admittedly, a “Type A” personality, even if I knew how to play and lived nearby!) Chess teacher will be hired. This professional will divide his/her time between Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and Shaare Zedek Hospital. Both are located in the heart of Jerusalem, and in close proximity to Chai Lifeline’s headquarters in Israel.
- In tandem, a few informal gatherings will be planned for the “students” to show off their newly acquired “skillz.” Meanwhile, they will compete for prizes/trophies, just like their peers who are not undergoing treatment.
And not to be overlooked in this decision-making process and undertaking – since our young grandson is already a chess champion, just like “his saba” – poignantly, this program is more than symbolic. Divinely imbued. Incomparably thrilling.
Most appropriately, it is at this time that a special shout-out is sent to my nearest and dearest (you know who you are!) who stood beside me through thick and thin.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Most especially, for all of your steadfast support; for lending an ear(s) in need, and for extending strong shoulders to lean on – when moving forward seemed like an impossibility. Finally, for knowing when silence is golden; for realizing that healing is not time-dependent, and for understanding that personal space is necessary for a “second chance.” Step-by-step.
Most revealingly, as is often the case when it comes to matters of the heart, there are certain feelings which are best expressed through poetry and/or song. And since my abiding, lifelong passion has always been music, it should come as no surprise (to those who know me best) that its effects stir deeply within this heart and soul. Of course, certain ballads move more than others, as expressed below.
Until the “appointed moment in time”….
(The HomelandSecurityNetwork saw fit to re-blog this tribute – to note the Yahrzeit of a wonderful man, Frank Kutnicki, of blessed memory) Click on “Archives” to read, dated Feb. 19. 2019