If this is the last time….

Morbid thoughts are filling my head… A young Jewish boy in America was just told that his Leukemia had come out of remission and there is little hope, little more the doctors can do. For many months now, his mother has been blogging about his fight…and a short time ago, she wrote that he was going home, having gone into remission…and just this week, the unbearably sad news that the remission was short-lived; the cancer is back and all pervasive.

The doctors leave them little hope. His parents met in Israel and when Sam was asked what he wanted to do, what dreams he wanted to fulfill in whatever time God has allocated him, he asked his parents to take him to Israel…soon, they will be on their way here. This young boy has shown more courage and strength in his few years than many show their entire lives.

I want to believe in miracles…and still I watch as they grapple with the reality that this might be the last time… For years now, from the sidelines, I have read about a woman suffering from cancer. Her battle with this horrible disease was told through her husband’s writings and through friends in my neighborhood who knew her from the “old country.”

She lost her battle days ago, set free from the horrible pain…and now the unbearable has shifted to her family. I wanted to believe in miracles…but for her family, the last time came last week. If all that wasn’t enough on a somewhat personal level, take the international situation. Israel is increasingly alone standing against Iran. France’s president came today and I want to believe that this is some brave new front for France, but honestly, we’re talking France here.

If the human side is so depressing, the political side is even worse. We can sink into depression, desperation and more. We can convince ourselves that we are alone, abandoned, and without hope. Or…well, I guess we can look outside – no, not outside too far…just a few feet in front of us. It’s a bit chilly in Israel today – I love winter here and it’s coming slowly.

The sun was shining on my balcony today, glorious and warm…but not stiflingly hot. I can hear the children as they play next door, cars passing, people walking in the street. Each is a simple message – we are alive, we live, we are. And in the middle of simply living in our country, Israel does the miraculous.

While the UN meets to condemn us…our doctors and nurses and soldiers fly to do the amazing, the unbelievable. They do what is needed, what every country should be doing…quietly on the side, as always. This time the Philippines, before it was Haiti, Turkey, Kenya…it doesn’t matter where…it’s what we do. The Philippines has never supported Israel in a vote in the UN, I am told. So what, was the answer from the IDF and their medics and rescue workers. So what…and then they flew to bring hope where there was none, to fight for life.

There are amazing miracles that we could miss if we don’t listen for them. A baby was born in the field hospital set up by the IDF. His grateful Filipino parents called him Israel. In one day, they treated 370 people…150 of them children.

Last week again, our enemies fired on us – each time, now and so many times in the past, they have missed. You can chalk it up to lousy aim just to many times. At some point, you’ll hear how a family walked into a safe room, and walked out to complete destruction. How a woman left her living room seconds before it was hit; how that morning, the class went to another room – and their classroom was destroyed. Not every time, but so many times, the miracles are there.

So, I’m sitting here, half depressed and half amazed; part thinking of mortality, part realizing that with each miracle we bring to others, we claim a portion of infinity. In between the deaths and the births, the dreams and hopes for a sick child, I listen to the news and talk of Iran and Obama, of France and Israel and more.

And when it threatens to be too much, I sit at my dining room table with the windows and balcony door open, with my laundry drying in the sun and children returning home from school…and I think about making the most of what we have, what we are, what will be. If this is the last time…well, I’d want to be in Israel…and so I bless the parents who are bringing their sick child here, to give him that dream and give themselves those memories.

I’d want my children to be here, as Stella’s children are; enriched by the fact that their parent’s brought them here, that this is where Stella chose to live her life. To know, as Stella must know, that her community and friends will love her children, help her family move beyond the hardest things they have ever faced.

Perhaps this is a silly exercise, brought on by recent events, but it’s something that maybe we should all do once in a while. If this were the last minute of your life…what would you think of, what would you wish?

If this was the last minute of my life, I’d want to feel…and do…that there is nowhere else I’d rather be, no one else I’d rather be married to, no other children I’d rather call mine. No other land I’d have called my own.

No, my life is not perfect – I have an African gray parrot who makes a ton of noise and my shoulder is still hurting from a recent operation. My flour sifter is being held hostage by one son for the price of 40 crembos, but I’ve been told that I can probably negotiate that down to five or six. And I have two grandchildren born in this country, where I chose to live, which my children have chosen to serve.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that in many ways, life is what we make of it, what we build. Take that moment to find your balance, to be grateful for where you are, what you are and if you aren’t – change it now. I think that’s what we can learn from little Sam and from Stella. I never met either of them – though I did stand next to Stella at a wedding one time.

What they both had in common is that they lived life…and are living life, to the fullest that they can. It may seem like enough sometimes, but in other ways, it is everything.

May God bless Stella’s memory and send comfort to her husband and children and may God grant Sam a miracle, a full recovery. He’s coming to Israel…the land of miracles…if it can happen anywhere, maybe it can happen here… ..and if, God forbid, it doesn’t – than may God grant Sam and his family a lifetime of memories for every minute given to them.

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.