Home » Blog » Lessons Learned from Living Through Hardship #3, by Mike Moxness with Debbie Echt-Moxness

Lessons Learned from Living Through Hardship #3, by Mike Moxness with Debbie Echt-Moxness

On Yom Kippur, three Congregation Or Ami members shared sermonettes throughout the service on Lessons They Learned Living Through Hardship. These Jewish TED Talk/Yom Kippur Social Sermons were each moving individually and very inspiring as a whole. Read about How a Whole Congregation Wrote its Rabbi’s Yom Kippur Sermon.


Lessons Learned from Living Through Life’s Challenges  
by Mike Moxness with Debbie Echt-Moxness

Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with metastatic stage 4 colon cancer. I suffered through a period of being very ill and it didn’t seem likely that I would be standing here today. Thanks to some effective medicines, I was able to get back on my feet and start living again. I’m not out of danger, but I’m experiencing the joy of life again. However, it wasn’t just the drugs that put me on this path, to make me whole, I frequently meditated on the love and support of family and friends.

Aaron, Mike, Molly and Debi
The Moxness Family

Being raised as a stoic Norwegian (similar to the characters from Lake Wobegon), it was difficult for me to ask for help. Many of you brought us dinners, transported our kids and provided emotional support during those dark days. I am so appreciative of everyone who came to our aid, without being asked.

Given the chance to live again is an awesome responsibility. I took the opportunity to discover what makes me happy and let go of those things that don’t. We all have a limited time on this earth and nobody knows how many moments are really left. That’s the lesson of the Unetaneh Tokef prayer – each year, some will live and some will die. So, every day, I ask myself what will bring me joy at this moment. Experiencing the beauty of the world and being with friends are usually are my first choices. I also tried to stop worrying about the future, what others thought about me and striving to get ahead. Without those worries, an amazing thing happened: I started to enjoy my work and to be more productive while spending less time at the office and more time at home.

This perspective is liberating and I wish I could teach it to everyone. It is not easy. The dark thoughts are always looming on the edge and sometimes they seep into my consciousness. Yet being open and honest about my disease has been the most effective at keeping me out of depression.

I have also learned that being engaged in a community like Congregation Or Ami has been particularly helpful to my recovery. Two of the most profound experiences of the past year have occurred at Or Ami. Last April, my 16 year old son Aaron articulated his interpretation of the Mi Shebeirach healing prayer at a teen-led Friday night service. I felt vulnerable but was comforted by the warmth of my community. This past August 3rd, my daughter Molly became a Bat Mitzvah. All of my loved ones were there to celebrate Molly and the life that our family has been able to live over the past year. I exist with a scary reality, but I have learned to let it guide me through a fulfilling life.

Yom Kippur reminds us that everyone will eventually die, we just don’t know when. My advice to you is this: Don’t wait for the life-changing event, try to change your life now.

G’mar Chatimah Tova. May you be sealed for a blessing in the Book of Life.

Listen to Mike Moxness’ Sermonette (at 00:49:49). 

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