December 25th, 2005

LL

Merry Christmas - L'Chaim - To Life - Ahmed Ismail Khatib

Merry Christmas - L'Chaim - To Life - Ahmed Ismail Khatib

It's not enough to say “Happy Holidays!” Or “Kwanza Greetings!” This holiday season, in the search for that common denominator that brings warmth to all people of good will, I will propose a motto, a toast, from my tradition, Hebrew, the ancient language of the Jews.

A traditional toast, “L'Chaim,” means, literally, “To Life!.” As such, it is the cement that binds humanity together. And it is the core value of humanism, secular humanism, at that, joining mankind together in the bond that recognizes the value of human life.

Christmas is the day of birth celebration for the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, accepted as the Messiah by those Jews who were the nascent Christians. The event of a birth, and, to Christians, particularly the birth of the Messiah, was, and is, an event to celebrate.

But the birth of a baby in any human group is an event of joy and hope, and the universal reaction to a human child of any race, religion or color, is one of love, warmth, acceptance, joy. Isn't the reaction to a baby, anyone's baby, an almost irresistible smile? Would not anyone, with no thought needed, react instinctively to protect and shelter a helpless child. This goes to our humanity, and not to our religion. I contend that this social response to the defenseless is a characteristic of our humanity and it is universal. It is a small step to a respect for life, to a reverence for life.

When we say, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Chanukah,””Season's Greetings,” are we not saying, in the form that we anticipate is best understood and appreciated, “I respect your humanity, and I value your life.” The rationalization may be religious, that you are one of God's children, or it may be humanistic, that you are a human being who shares mortality with the greeter, but the implication that cuts across all, is best understood by me, as “To Life!” To your life and to those whom you hold dear. “To Life, L'Chaim!” To those amongst us live and love and join others in doing the same, with joy and understanding and empathy.
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Alonzo, Valerie, Natalie and Jabes - L'Chayim

It was great timing for Sports Illustrated magazine to offer a holiday season story on Alonzo Mourning, a professional basketball player with the Miami Heat, and a source of inspiration. The story is well told, and goes into detail as written by Ian Thomsen.

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http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/ian_thomsen/12/14/artest.mourning/1.html

For my purposes, it is enough to say that he is a champion as a man whose life demonstrates a refusal to give in to illness (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis and Chronic Renal Failure), potentially fatal illness, and to overcome disability with grit and determination. His story is inspiring.

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Natalie Alexa arrived on the scene ahead of schedule, on February 3, 2005, the first baby that I had personally witnessed to survive gestation in a mother who was a dialysis patient. She weighed 3 pounds, 9 ounces, and stayed in the hospital, Western Medical Center, Santa Ana, for about another month. Her older sister, Valerie, had been born, July 25, 2000, during an interval when their mother had enjoyed an interlude in dialysis therapy following a kidney transplant. In most cases, pregnancy is not successful in hemodialysis patients, but, with treatments for three hours six days a week, Natalie survived and thrives. Thirty eight years of nephrology practice and no patient of mine had carried a fetus safely through a gestation.

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Jabes is the second baby this year to make it into this world, and though he was only one pound twelve ounces at birth on May 6, 2005, he left the hospital at four months and six pounds and is doing very well.

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So, I celebrate Alonso Mourning and Natalie, Valerie and Jabes, and a society that values Life, and provides, in many cases, for the extraordinary resources that must be drawn upon to maintain life and allow the full development of the individual to the benefit of society. I am proud to be a part of the medical community, the nurses, doctors and other health care professionals who can toast the brave individuals who fight the good fight, for life. “L’Chaim!”

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