Today, someone I loved died. He died after a long, arduous battle; a battle he fought day in and day out. He fought this battle with his wife and his three young children by his side. He fought with humor, courage, and grace. Today, someone I loved died, without ever knowing how much he had come to mean to me; in fact, without knowing me at all.
Adam Krief is from Los Angeles, just like me. However, we are from different communities and have different social circles. In fact, I had never heard of Adam Krief until he was diagnosed with cancer, and brought to the forefront of a struggle no one ever chooses. Even then, our connections were minimum, with just a few friends in common. And yet, he has become a person I feel as if I know intimately.
When I heard the news of Adam’s death today, I called my sister in Los Angeles and we cried and cried. My sister said, “I don’t know Adam, but I know Adam. Through his photos, his messages, his interactions with the LA community, I have come to know him. I see his smile and I feel as if I am looking at a friend.”
The tragedy is heartbreaking. In the few months after a match was found for Adam, there was such joy. After so much suffering, so many treatments; reaching out to communities across the world, both Jewish and non-Jewish — a match had been found! There is a euphoria, but also a comfort, when hopes and pleas and prayers are answered at last. There is a God, and He has heard us. And then, just a short time later, everything had changed. We cried and prayed and wished and hoped, but this time, we did not receive the answer we so fervently hoped for. And it hurts. It hurts so much, I feel a physical pain in the place where my heart beats.
I turn to my God at a time like this, but I also turn to my people. I turn to a people who opened their hearts, their pockets, and their mouths, happy to be swabbed if it meant a potential match might be found for Adam. I turn to my friends who organized prayer circles, who lit Shabbat candles, and who gave charity in the merit of his speedy recovery. I turn to a community who has not and will not forsake Adam’s family at this time, when they will need our love, support, and prayers more than ever before. I turn to my sister, who knew Adam because he was, in so many ways, a role model, an inspiration, a brother. When God chooses to remain silent; when He does not give me the answer I desire and the weight of it has brought me to my knees, I turn to my nation to lift me up.
Adam, through his suffering, reminded us that we are all responsible for one another, and that family is more than those who share your name. In the Purim story we so recently read, Haman describes the Jewish nation as a “scattered people.” He knew that when we are separated and not united, we are at our weakest, and thus he chose this time to attack us. Adam reunited us. He used his illness to create a lifeline for others. So far, seven other bone marrow matches have been made through donors who were swabbed in his merit. He strengthened our relationship with God each time we lit shabbos candles and recited a verse of tehilim for him. And, more significantly, he strengthened our relationship with each other, as we remembered that we are all truly one family.
Today, I pray for Adam’s wife and for his young children. But I also pray that we do not forget the unity that Adam caused; how he moved our spirit and motivated us to band together, both physically and spiritually. I know that the myriad of good deeds done in Adam’s sake will not go in vain, as much as I know that Adam is watching us right now, with his beautiful smile, encouraging us to hold on to our faith, but also, always, to hold on to each other.