Dark clouds hang over me as I learn of the terminal illness which has befallen my younger and only brother. Although we live at a great distance from one another we always spoke frequently on the telephone before Shabbat or yomtov to wish one another happiness.
How much pain can one endure? Is Hashem testing us to determine our worthiness and our strength?
It is not yet two years since the death of my beloved wife, the great light of my life. I have not recovered from her death and the memories haunt me. In the first year following her death I visited her grave at the cemetery once every week. I hugged the matzeva (tombstone) which marked her grave and I cried bitter tears for my kedosha u’brucha (my sainted and blessed wife). I begged her forgiveness for any harsh words I had spoken and from my often lack of patience. And I told her that I cannot…do not want…to go on living without her.
It is painful for me to remain in our apartment in Rishon Lezion. It is an apartment which she bought more than twenty years ago even before the building had been constructed. She met with the contractor and described exactly what she wanted and later she approved the final blueprint. And when it was completed, we moved in and affixed mezzuzot to all of the door-posts.
The memories of our lives there among life-long friends of more than sixty-five years was a blessing to both of us but at the same time those memories bring flowing tears knowing that she is no longer able to share in my life.
Our favorite ‘room’ was the large mirpeset..the balcony..which faced the main street..and whose tall palm tree branches fluttered in the breeze. We always enjoyed our morning breakfast on that balcony followed by a reading of the daily Yisrael Hayom.
Life for me has been empty since her death. The memories haunt me…beautiful memories of the woman I knew for only six days before our marriage in Tel-Aviv in 1960 and the happy fifty-six years we were blessed to share together.
I often wake up in a sweat when I recall the last minutes of her life. I closed her eyes, kissed her lips, lit a candle at her bedside and screamed in agony…”Rahele, Rahele, why did you leave me?” But no reply was forthcoming.
Twenty minutes after her death, my daughter and I were comforted by two angels. At four o’clock in the morning our magnificent Rabbi and his wonderful wife were at our door to embrace us, to comfort us and to make the arrangements for the funeral later that morning. Those angels had no wings but the halo of holiness shone brightly over their heads. We shall never forget their great kindness to us.
Almost two years have passed. The wounds have not healed. They never will. But the blessings that we have enriches my life. Every day my older daughter who lives quite far from us telephones me to inquire how I am. “Did you eat properly today? Do you need anything?”
My son, a busy doctor, telephones me twice a day… shacharit and maariv… with the same questions. “How do you feel? What did you do today? Are you taking all your medications? Have you done any walking?”
And his two older children, my beloved grandchildren who are away at universities, are in constant contact with me. The eldest granddaughter calls me once a week to wish me a Shabbat shalom. And my grandson, who has become a Chabad Orthodox practicing Jew, calls me every day to inquire of my health and to remind me that he loves me. Of that, I need no reminder !
Some well-meaning friends ask me why I don’t socialize more. I don’t play cards or chess or bridge, I’m not a fan of modern music, I rarely go to a cinema when films that I enjoy are on cable television. During the day, I am the care-taker of my daughter’s Kelev Knaani who curls up on the bed beside me, belly up waiting for a rub-down. Dogs are marvelous and loyal friends. They ask for nothing in return but give all their affection, loyalty and devotion.
I have since changed my weekly visit to the cemetery to once each month, And I tell my beloved that I hope soon to lie beside her.
Memories are beautiful but often painful. Blessings are a gift from Hashem, my Rock and my Redeemer.