On the Shabbat morning, one day before my grandson’s wedding, I was holding a cup of coffee in one hand and biting on a piece of sponge cake held in my other hand while several people approached me with a “mazal tov” and “harbai smachot”… congratulations and much happiness.
Among them was an esteemed rabbi, beloved by all the members of his synagogue. He congratulated me on the happy occasion of the wedding and also on the beautiful tribute which he had read, written by Saul Chapnick and published in The Times of Israel.
He was very touched by Saul’s written tribute to me and he added his own blessed words.
Shortly thereafter, while still sipping the hot coffee and munching on another slice of cake, this one with a chocolate frosting, a cherished and treasured friend, a Canadian-born Robyn, walked over to me glowing with happiness for me. She wore around her neck a silver chain and hanging from it were three Hebrew letters.. resh, chet and lamed, which form the Hebrew name Rachel.
She made a point of showing it to me, explaining that I would not be alone at tomorrow’s wedding. Rachel, my beloved Rachel, would be standing next to me and we would be holding hands again as we did when she was alive. Robyn was sure of it and her comforting words were proof of it.
When I was called up to the Torah to recite the two blessings, I silently added a third… a blessing for a rabbi and a Robyn, both who have held me up from falling into total despair in the past four years
I can never forget the rabbi who came with his wife at 3:45 in the morning, fifteen minutes after I called him to inform him that the light of my life had just passed away. He and his wife held me. They understood my intense pain, my wish to no longer go on living without my Rachel.
The rabbi clearly felt my pain. A few years earlier he had lost his first wife, a beautiful woman in her early forties.
He telephoned the chevra kaddisha and when they arrived he accompanied Rachel’s lifeless body with me walking behind him in preparation for burial within a few hours.
During my shiva, hundreds of people came to express their condolences and to offer me and my children their comforting words in their love for my Rachel.
Among those who comforted me then and who continue to comfort me even now are Robyn and her loving husband Simcha. They do everything possible to sustain me, not just with words but with their very deep love, a love so genuine and caring and compassionate, words alone are inadequate to explain it. They are God’s great gift to those in need of understanding and for loving devoted friends.
I was a guest at the wedding of their daughter, and I sat in the row with the American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a relative of the groom’s family.
My children together with many, many dear friends continue to insist that after the loss of my wife four years ago it is time to stop mourning. I am not ready or able to do so.
Most people simply do not understand. They all mean well. But they cannot completely understand a man who met and knew a beautiful young girl for only six days, only six brief days, fell deeply in love with her and married, sharing fifty-six very happy years together.
I put down my cup of coffee, cooled off by then, glanced at the trays of cakes and cookies, and I wondered “should I” or “should I not”. The “not” won the decision.
Nothing could be sweeter than the constant love and devotion of the rabbi and of the Robyn.
Blessed may they be in good health and long years of life with beautiful children and grandchildren.
Now I rest in preparation for my grandson’s wedding in a few more hours. Happy as it will be, I eagerly wait for the day when I may become a great-grandfather.
My original goal of writing and publishing one thousand articles for The Times of Israel will be reached within a few more weeks.
But Robyn will not hear of “no more writing” and insists that I commit to one thousand more.
I wish her happy dreams but she must realize that dreams are only dreams.
Like everything else, including life, all things must come to a peaceful end.