Jerry and Edith

Today is the anniversary of the death of Jerry Garcia, who passed away on August 9, 1995. At the time I had grown bored with the Grateful Dead; I hadn’t seen them in concert for over four years, and didn’t really miss it that much. When he died, I went though a period of remorse that I hadn’t gone to see some shows over that period of time. Now, over a decade later, I have a longer view of things, and I realize I was doing what I wanted to do, and one of the things I wanted to do was not go see the Grateful Dead. I had seen them dozens of times over a five year period (1986-1991), and granted, there were songs I loved that I never saw them perform, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed some of the shows I missed. But it’s okay that I missed them, and it’s okay that I felt bad when Jerry died and went through a phase when I wish I had gone to more shows… and now it’s okay that I’m back to feeling more thankful for the shows I did see than disappointed for all the shows I missed.

This morning at mass I learned that today is also the anniversary of the death of a Carmelite saint, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who is more widely known by her secular name, Edith Stein. Stein, a convert to Catholicism from Judaism, was gassed to death by the Nazis on this date in 1942. She was 50 years old; three years younger than Garcia was when he died, and only four years older than I am now. Stein was a philosopher (she studied under Edmund Husserl) and was a fairly prolific writer, although I haven’t read any of her works; she converted to Catholicism after reading the autobiography of the great Carmelite mystic, Saint Teresa of Avila. After the Nazis rose to power in Germany she was transferred to the Netherlands, but in an act of political retaliation there the Nazis imprisoned even Jews who had converted to Christianity. So Stein was shipped off to Auschwitz where she was killed on August 9, 1942 — just eight days after Jerry Garcia was born. Today the Catholic Church honors her for being a martyr, even though she died for being a Jew, not being a Catholic. I think there’s a wee bit of interfaith solidarity there.

The Nazis killed Edith Stein, and Jerry Garcia basically killed himself with cigarettes and chili dogs and heroin. And so now I think August 9 is a good day to listen to some good music and to ponder on how humankind can be so inhumane in dealing with one another. Let’s try to love each other a little bit more (and take good care of our own bodies, too). After all, as the Dead sang in Uncle John’s Band,

Ain’t no time to hate… barely time to wait… whoa-oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?”


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