As a medical social worker, I have witnessed both in my patients and clients. I saw my parents take a downhill slide as they aged, even though they did so with grace. I have a difficult time allowing myself to be taken care of, since my role has long been that of caregiver. As I face my fears, they become less fierce.
Literature and memory are essential to a culture's survival. For Jews, that literature is Yiddish -- 26 of its greatest writers and poets were murdered in a 1952 Stalinist purge. As Zunser (Ron Rifkin) explains to his four jailed comrades: "We are all here because of the fifth line on the form: Jewish."