Shira Pasternak Be'eri
Living and loving in Jerusalem
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At my father’s bedside

You’re here, but not here, with us and not with us, your spirit trapped in a body that no longer responds. And you’ve asked us to let you go, but how can we?

Daddy, can you hear me?
Daddy, can you see me?
Daddy, can you feel me, at your bedside?

The room is awash in the faint green glow of monitors, the graphs rhythmically jumping with your every breath. The quiet is punctuated by dings, and beeps, and an occasional alarm — often not yours, but frightening nonetheless. As the hours pass, I’m acquiring a new vocabulary of intensive care terms. I wish I didn’t know them.

I sleep, curled up in a ball, in a chair, with no night and no day, wondering how many times you sat in vigil by my bedside when I was in pain.

You’re still the vibrant storyteller, the charismatic personality, the devoted husband, the generous father that I have always known — an unstoppable force of nature, always doing, always producing, never wanting to be idle.

But you’re not.

You’re here, but not here, with us and not with us, your spirit trapped in a body that no longer responds. And you’ve asked us to let you go.

But how can I possibly let go?

I’m still the baby girl who slept all day and woke up to play when you came home from work, much to my mother’s chagrin.

I’m still the child you piled into the back of a station wagon for long summer vacations in Maine.

I’m still the high school student proudly running to show you a test paper, knowing that when you saw the 97 you would ask what happened to the extra three points.

I’m still the college student riding home with you from Manhattan twice a week, talking about school, and business, and life.

I’m still the young woman who left New York and set out to live in Israel, fulfilling your dream.

But our roles have suddenly been reversed, and I am now meant to be the grown up. And I am oh so torn. Because while you made it clear that you do not ever want to be in this state, you are still breathing.

What are you still able to sense or feel? When your temperature spikes, are you hot? When your temperature drops, are you cold? When your sugar is off, are you dizzy? When your kidneys fail, are you queasy?

When we sing to you, do you hear us? When we pray for you, are you near us?

Do you know how much we love you?

Do you know how much we already miss you?

And all I want is for you to go — No, stay! No, go! — No stay!

No matter how old I may be, I will always be your little girl, and you will always be my beloved dad.

And wherever our journeys take us, you will always be with me.

Daddy, how I love you.
Daddy, how I need you.
Daddy, how I only want you to find peace.

_______

I wrote the above on May 26, 2019, after spending a week at my father’s bedside in New York. While I wrote it for myself, I am sharing it in case it makes others who are in similar situations feel less lonely. My sister Atara took up the bedside vigil when I returned home to Israel, and has been tending to the needs of both of my parents for almost three weeks. This is dedicated to her, as she has always been — and will always be — my father’s little girl. May God hold Zev ben Chana in the palm of His hand and extend chesed and rachamim to him and to all those who love him.

About the Author
Shira Pasternak Be'eri is a Jerusalem-based editor and translator. She is married to Leonard (aka Eliezer) and is the proud mom of three boys, two of whom are soldiers in the IDF. Born and raised in New York, she has been living in Israel since 1982. And yes, she is Velvel Pasternak's daughter.
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