Ten men, ten stories; ten emotional considerations of death and dying, grief, family, spirituality, prayer, honesty, and legacy. With each man we enter deeply into the core of concern. We are inside his head at every debate, every tinge of pain, haunting memory, and longing for love. We come through the journey with a sense of empathy and compassion.
The stories address strong Jewish identity issues that have challenged us for generations. The weaving of life events and Judaic thought and practice is seamless, and filled with thoughtful beauty.
Among the memorable characters are Michael and Harry, each searching for meaning through prayer. Michael, desperately missing his beloved brother, reads and talks to him each day. Never a believer, he surprisingly finds solace, saying kaddish at a daily minyan service. Harry, a late-in-life observant Jew, waits for some life-affirming message from God as he lains tefillin each morning. One day, he senses something radiating through the box. This sets off a familiar and then enlightening chain of events in his mostly Christian community.
Another character, David, wrought with grief over the recent loss of his first wife, and as well, the earlier loss of their son, is surprised with a loving visit from his youngest son from a second marriage. The vibrant young man, brimming with plans for the future, shares his news. Basking in the joy of the moment David begins to understand, “All the children are Isaac. And sometimes the ram is nowhere to be found.”
In the opening lines of the title story, “Many Seconds into the Future,” Daniel learns that he is dying. Too young, too vibrant, he keeps it secret from all until he can no longer hide the symptoms. He savors every remaining moment with his wife and children. As the end nears, he experiences a sense of “presentiment” where “he’s propelled not a split second but many seconds into the future.” He thinks, “Maybe this damage is a gift from God. If so, it’s a curious gift, suddenly to be thrust inside another person.” And John J. Clayton does just that with these remarkable stories.