"When fear strikes, I like to listen to a poem Zalman created spontaneously when asked to record some inspiring words for people facing death. Lying down, he closed his eyes and imagined he was about to depart. He began by thanking God for being with him through his years, then said:

"It was a wonderful life. I loved and I was loved.
I sang, I heard music, I saw flowers, I saw sunrises and sunsets,
Even in places when I was alone,
You, in my heart, helped me to turn loneliness into precious solitude. . . .
What a wonderful privilege this was!

"He expressed his care for those he was leaving.

"I still have some concerns for people in the family, for the world, for the planet,
I put them in Your Blessed Hands.
I trust that whatever in the web of life that needed me to be there is now completed.
I thank You for taking the burden from me,
And I thank You for keeping me in the Light,
As I let go, and let go . . . and let go

"Not bad. The last words, spoken in a rich baritone that slowly, softly fades, never fail to bring me with him.

"And the afterlife? Has my mind been loosened, as Reb Zalman hoped? The truth is, I prefer not to dwell on what may happen after we die but to focus on the day, to drink deeply of the unique moment that will not come again.

"When the time arrives, Reb Zalman has given me a model to aim for. I'd like to be able to embody the words he spoke that Friday in his basement, just before Passover, when I asked how the holiday feels in December. He told a story, of course, the story of when he was a kosher slaughterer in Providence and the chicken pluckers taught him the spiritual 'Travelin' Shoes.' He rose from his chair and did some dance moves. 'I'm ready,' he sang, 'I got my travelin' shoes.'

"I'm trying on the shoes."