The thought that terrified me most when I was a teenager was that I would die before I figured out why I was alive in the first place. Premature deaths were uncommon, but I knew they happened, sometimes even close to home.

In 1973, just after I graduated from high school, our family friends' daughter was killed while driving home after her freshman year of college. What made her death more chilling were the words my mother repeated for many years after it. She said the girl's parents were haunted by one thought: If only she had forgotten something and gone back for it . . .

Our neighbors' daughter was murdered

Sixteen years later, our neighbors' teenage daughter, their only child, was murdered in their backyard by her friend—an unspeakable horror. Shortly after it happened, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, a rabbi who had made a profound impact on me and my husband, came to speak in Pittsburgh. We knew that if anyone could offer the couple support, Rabbi Lipskar could, so we asked him if he would be willing to pay a condolence call.

I wasn't at their meeting, but apparently it was a meaningful visit; years later, the couple included it in the book they wrote about the events surrounding their daughter's death.

Rabbi Lipskar told them that their daughter was only destined to be on this earth until the very moment when she left it. Nothing could have changed that reality.

Everyone has preordained expiration dates. There's no place for "If only . . ."

What I'm pondering is this: Could the extreme pain and sense of indignation that many are feeling these days about death (this is too much, it's not supposed to be this way) reflect how close we are to the arrival of Moshiach, when death as we know it will leave this world and it really won't be this way?

Could this be because our souls feel, sense, know that immortality is within reach? In my own lifetime, 60 went from being old to being middle-aged!

Previous generations accepted early demises as a given, occurring as early as infancy. Death was very much interwoven with life. And as Jews, our ancestors understood the risk of dying at the hands of an anti-Semite as a fact of life. Pogroms happened.

Today, thank G‑d, for the most part, that is not our reality. We feel entitled to long and healthy years, and in general that is what G‑d wants for us as well.

There's just one little hitch.

Long and healthy years are not an end unto themselves. G‑d wants us to acknowledge that our very life—and everything in life—is Him and only Him. And then, of course, He wants us to behave accordingly.

But G‑d also created a paradox. In order to preserve our freedom of choice, He has hidden Himself in nature and made us feel that we exist on our own, separately from Him.

Despite this, He asks us to transform our lives from a self-centered, physical existence to a G‑d-centered one. This is my answer to my teenage question about the purpose of life. As demanding as the work is, it is still far better than not knowing why I'm here.

Although sometimes, I'm not sure. BecauseHe asks us to transform our lives knowing what I know makes it harder to live with the painful reality of this world, that Moshiach is coming very soon but he’s not here yet. Now I know it's not supposed to be this way.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe himself, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, couldn’t understand why Moshiach had not yet arrived; far be it from me to ask what has taken so long. But every day that passes means his arrival is closer, not further away. Perhaps the reason we are experiencing the pain of death so deeply is that our Jewish souls feel, sense, know that eternal life is imminent.

What better time than now for us to ask G‑d to send Moshiach, so we can have our loved ones returned, so we all can finally experience life the way it’s supposed to be, eternally?