“The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is to not fear at all.” These words, adapted from the writings of the great 18th Century Hassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, keep coming to mind as I think of my father, his life and his times. Especially this recent memorial day, which also marks the passing of my little sister, Toni Lynn, I am painfully aware of the narrow bridge that my father walked across many times. I try to put myself in his place, facing the fears as a parent of a sick and dying child, so soon after losing his wife, and I simply cannot imagine the confusion and terror, the pain and the loss he felt.
Sometimes I surface a memory of how he managed; mostly I know that he faced his fears with silence and strength, and walked across the bridge in spite of how afraid he must’ve been, much as the teaching of the mystical Rebbe from Bratzlav.
One of my modern teachers, Reb Yacov Gabriel, suggested that this wisdom can be better understood as “This entire world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing we can do is to know our fears and walk on through.”
From the time I first considered becoming a father, one great fear has been plainly true to me – that of losing my child. Indeed, as a dad, I cannot imagine the horror, the depth of pain, or the extreme sense of loss, even though, or perhaps because I was witness to my own father’s experience of it.
And so every day, with every step I take, I summon my balance and my courage, emboldened by my father’s example, and the wisdom of the sage’s.
I know my fears, and as I navigate the narrow bridge we call life, it’s with full knowledge that I accept and face the fears that come along with the joys of fatherhood, every step of the way.
…and that’s the full-circle fatherhood report for this week.