I Cannot Say Goodbye

This is the most painful article I have written in 63 years. My beloved wife has been ill for the past three months and our son, who is our personal physician, sent her for many tests from many specialists. All appeared relatively normal. Pills and medications helped to relieve many of the pains.

She had been complaining of being unable to eat very much. After a few bites she declared that she was full and could not eat more. The gastroenterologist was concerned and sent her for a CT .

Fifteen minutes after the test was over, the doctor informed us of the results. They had located problems in her pancreas and liver and diagnosed it as pancreatic cancer, the deadliest of all cancers with no known cures. The average life span is between 3 to 6 months.

I was devastated, crying hysterically in the doctor’s office. My wife was calm and asked what the procedures would be. She showed no sign of emotion, hiding it all inside. She is the bravest woman I know. Another patient would scream, cry out, even react in denial. But my wife thanked the doctor for his care and compassion.

These next few months will be excruciating for me to watch her deterioration. On Sunday of this week we are celebrating our 56th wedding anniversary, married on 24 January 1960 on Gordon Street in Tel-Aviv. This may be our final anniversary celebration.

With a broken heart and with a mind that accepts facts as painful as they can be, I am not prepared to say goodbye to my sainted wife. Every day of the past 56th years has been a blessing from Almighty God. Her life is dedicated solely to me, our three children and our three grandchildren. She asks nothing for herself but gives of herself to all.

She is a sabra, educated in the Alliance Francaise school in Neveh Tzedek and later at Mikveh Yisrael. From a religious family, she was acquainted with the prayers, which she recites every morning upon arising.

Our home is kosher, our Shabbat and yom tov tables are set with the finest dishes and cutlery set on a sparkling white tablecloth. She lights six candles on erev Shabbat, partakes of kiddush and hamotzi over the challah, serves a delicious meal and concludes with singing zemirot and birkat ha-mazon.

Every Shabbat morning we walk together to our bet ha-knesset and return home to enjoy a bowl of steaming cholent.

My family and I pray three times daily for a refuah shelemah which we are told cannot be. We pray only that she does not suffer in her remaining time with us.

Our love for her is eternal and will live forever beyond her final resting place. But I cannot say goodbye. When the time comes I can only repeat the ancient words, Hashem natan, Hashem lakach, Yehi Shem Hashem mevorach… God has given to us and God has taken away from us, and yet we continue to bless the Lord.

But to say goodbye to the greatest love in our lives is not possible. At that moment we can only say “Rahel, you were our treasure. We thank you for your life and we bless your memory.”

I hope it will still be a long time until that dreadful day arrives. I depend upon the love of a merciful and compassionate God.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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