I answered that I didn’t know what was normal, but I would like to come back and visit again. “Can I come see you again?” He smiled slightly and said yes “but bring the pictures!”
We rose to leave and the rabbi said, “Good Shabbos!” which was answered in kind, with an explanation. “I don’t know Yiddish,” he said, “but I remember from my parents.” The memory breaking through was nearly 100 years old.
I looked back at the cluttered apartment – the walls completely covered with his late wife’s paintings, the bookshelf with a copy of Tales of the Paranormal, edited by Alexander Imich, Ph.D., the “Do Not Resuscitate” letter hanging on the wall outside the kitchen, cards commemorating his recent February 4 birthday, two computers that haven’t been used in a year due to Imich’s failing eyesight and no television set anywhere in sight.
An 111-year-old blue-eyed man with paper thin skin stretched tight across his bones sits on a recliner, his legs wrapped in a blanket, facing a clock hanging on the wall, nestled there between the paintings. It reminded me of the lyrics in the Jacques Brel song from a long time ago, about old folks and their clocks: “It tick tocks oh so slow. It says yes, it says no. It says ‘I’ll wait for you.’ The old, old silver clock that’s hanging on the wall that waits for us all.”
In a speech he gave at the age of 99, Imich said: “In my life, I have witnessed the development of flight, the automobile, electrification of nations, the telephone, the radio and television, atomic energy, the wonders of bioscientific medicine, computer technology, great advances in our knowledge of the cosmos, men walking on the moon – the list could go on and on.”
However, on answering the question (to the satisfaction of modern scientists) on whether consciousness survives the death of the physical body, he says, in his book, “Imagine for a moment how much human life would change if this question were answered in the positive, how much easier it would be to live through the pain and misery of our existence on this planet, if we were sure these were only temporary ills.”