Humble Warriors

Humble Warriors

by Dr. David Sanders

To keep months aligned with the earth’s rotation around the sun, an extra day was added in the Gregorian calendar every four years to February, the month with the least number of days. A larger discrepancy between a yearlong calculation of lunar months and the earth’s rotation around the sun necessitated adding a full month to the Hebrew calendar. The Jewish astronomers of old figured out the number of years to add months so that every 19 years the lunar and solar count of days would synch.


This year, there was a February 29th and it landed in the Hebrew leap month of Adar. We have become accustomed to adding an hour in the fall or subtracting an hour in the spring. Those who keep a careful watch on calibrating the solar calendar add seconds every few years.


Despite all these maneuvers, we recognize that time isn’t fungible. Whether there was an extra day or month, an hour or a few seconds added, your age is calculated by how many times you have been on planet earth as it rotated around the sun.


When I visited Margaret Johnson for the last time she had rotated around the sun 101 times. She died this past February 24th after a 102nd rotation. It was the full moon of the leap month of Adar. Her memorial service is planned for April 8th at St. John’s Cathedral, the final day of (the non-leap month) Adar. As we gather to honor her, the “new” moon (of the month of Nissan which follows Adar) will be interposed between the earth and the sun. How fitting it is that for the duration of her memorial service which starts at 1 p.m., Denver will be in the shadows of a solar eclipse.


Margaret is one of four women who have studied at Kabbalah Experience and have rotated around the sun for more than nine decades. In addition to Margaret, they are Alice Ruback, Barbara Goldburg and Louann Miller. Margaret and Louann Miller met in Kabbalah class. Margaret was already in her nineties and Louann had not quite turned eighty. That year our twin daughters were born, and Louann and Margaret (along with many other KE students) would come to our home and rock our girls to sleep. Our premature daughters were in good hands and on the laps of women for whom this wasn’t the first time around the sun.


This year, Kabbalah Experience is coming full cycle. It is our 19th year of offering classes. For me, it is less important how many rotations around the sun that represents. What is important is who has come into the orbit of our community of learners and how we have touched each other, been there for each other.


I want to share a few words to honor each of our Kabbalah Experience matriarchs. Two are still rotating around the sun and two remain in our orbit, their collective light only eclipsed for those who are unaware of their influence on us all.


I start with Alice Ruback.

Dear Alice. Quiet, unassuming., witty and sharp. A widow. Totally independent. She would drive to class before she moved to an assisted living community. Fortunately, it was close enough that I was able to pick her up each week and transport her to class. One of her classmates would drive her back. I can still picture her telling us in class that she was an unwanted child. Her Momma had said to her, “What am I going to do with you? Pretty you’re not, smart you’re not, for God sakes be good.” Alice was beautiful. And she was good. The last time we spent quality time together, before her mind began to fail her, I picked her up from the memory care unit she had just taken residence in, to go downtown to the DCPA to hear Itzhak Perlman perform. We had anticipated, as did others, that this would be an opportunity of a lifetime to be in the presence of this violin virtuoso. What had been anticipated as a concert was an interview with Perlman who shared his life story and played two short pieces. There was a full moon that evening, the leap month of Adar. On our way back to the car Alice said what everyone was feeling. “I wish he had talked less and played more.” She took that and all else in stride.


Margaret Johnson.

Dear Margaret. Talkative, Presence, Elegance, Equanimity. Married to Bill, the love of her life. It was a Wednesday in March a couple of years after she started to study Kabbalah that she entered class and wanted us to take note that she had not, for the first time in her adult life, placed ash on her forehead. Her independence of thought had led her to reconsider her relationship to the dogma she had learned and practiced. That was only the beginning. Kabbalah was her spiritual gateway to explore beyond the cathedral and then she was on her own, learning to “just be.” She wrote me in 2012 that this “requires a quiet vigilance to my thoughts, my responses, and to the wisdom and guidance that are so powerfully and silently surrounding me. I seek nothing, I lack nothing because I have internalized the teachings.” She returned to the cathedral. People came to see her, to seek her spiritual guidance, to be in her orbit till her final 102nd rotation around the sun.


Louann Miller.

Dear Louann. Talkative, Flexible, Magical, Family focused. Married to Micky, the love of her life. Louann has just entered into her nineties. Never mind that this past week I had the pleasure of holding the door open for her and Micky as we arrived at a restaurant at the exact same moment, independent of each other knowing that we had made reservations for dinner. There are few people who I intersect with around synchronicities more than Louann and that is due to our staying in touch, knowing and celebrating what is transpiring in each other’s lives. And we shared a love for Margaret who me in Kabbalah class and remained friends for many years.


I was just getting to now Louann when she invited me to attend a celebration honoring her years of volunteering for the Denver Hospice. She spoke then about how much she received from the people she gave to, rubbing feet to ease their pain.   I share with you a story she sent me back in 2012 that I kept as it reflected who Louann is in my eyes. It is a story about a taxicab driver and his fare that he picks up.


Last Ride- Author Unknown

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift, I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she asked. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued in a soft voice. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now”.


We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two men came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said

“You have to make a living,” she responded.

“There are other passengers,” I said.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware, beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.


Barbara Goldburg.

Dear Barbara. Talkative, Wise, Skeptical, Busy, Courageous.  A widow. Totally self-sufficient. Of the four women, I have the longest history with Barbara. We first met in a class I taught for Melton, years before Kabbalah Experience was an idea. Her sage advice, in countless classes over decades, on walks or over exquisite meals she prepared, has kept me going these many years. We both were renewed in finding soulmates later in life and through them the joy of a deeper love for ourselves. It was an awareness that Barbara came to in sharing a story in class that led to naming Kabbalah Experience.


Barbara was skeptical about our study of unseen reality. There are five wondrous senses she relied on. Was that not enough? Seeing some bees buzzing around her home she wasn’t sure if she needed to be alarmed but decided to check it out. She enlisted a family-owned company that had the expertise to locate beehives. It took them a while to trace where the bees were going inside her home and that a hive, a large honey filled hive and thousands of bees was under the floorboards in her bedroom. They carefully removed the beehive. I don’t know which was sweeter, the honey she brought to share in class or the look on her face when one of her classmates highlighted for her that she had experienced an unseen reality!  An entire world she was unaware of had been orbiting under her head while she was asleep. It was a moment of awakening—a Kabbalah Experience.

I honor these four women, humble warriors who have inspired me and so many others and have enriched our Kabbalah Experience community, quietly and with kindness.

“We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware, beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.”

 ~ Kent Nerburn, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace


Study with Dr. David Sanders this Spring at Kabbalah Experience





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