This man lived his life to the fullest. Moshe Etzion saw many hardships in his life. He was a Holocaust survivor, lost his son to a terrorist’s rocket on the last day of that terrible war in the summer of 2014, has lived with his wife dwindling and disappearing before his eyes. Despite all that, Moshe wore an undefeatable smile.
Often, on my early morning walks around the perimeter fence, I would pass him, and he would always smile and wave. (Creatures of habit: I always walk in counter-clockwise, he: clockwise, circumnavigating the community we both loved.) During the past year, he published an autobiography in Hebrew (Always on the Journey), so I am not even attempting to sum up the very rich history of this admirable, lovable person in just a few words. I really knew him only superficially, as neighbors often do. And yet, I want to express my feelings about the loss of this remarkable man.
Do you know how special this man was? He was one of those people who would volunteer with “Road to Recovery,” driving to the Gaza border to pick up sick Gazans who had hospital appointments in Israel, but no convenient way of getting there once on our side of the border. He often spoke to teens in our region as a Holocaust survivor, bearing witness to the atrocities and no doubt reliving some of that pain each time in order to pass on the torch of survival and hope to the next generations.
Moshe was always a doer. He worked well past retirement age (into his 80s) helping with the upkeep of the telephony and Internet systems on the kibbutz, more than once crawling under my desk to get to the source of the problem with my phone line. I never heard him say an angry word, or raise his voice, or even respond to something sarcastically. All this was literally just the tip of the iceberg.
Yesterday, after hearing the tragic news, I went to the family to offer support and love. His daughter told me that after my husband Laurie committed suicide, way back in 2008, Moshe had told her that he admired him for having the courage to end it when he understood that the cycles he was living (bouts of repeated bi-polarity despite medical treatment) were not going to end; that he had the courage to end it on his own terms.
Moshe had been having serious medical issues recently, and he too was unwilling to let anyone else drive his car. It seems his exit was meticulously planned, and executed. I believe that he is now at peace, and would want us to be at peace with that, as well. As a suicide survivor, myself, I have grown to learn that while I may not agree with it, I need to respect it.
All of us here on Nirim have our own little piece of Moshe in our hearts. He was a good person, with a generous disposition, who lived his life to the fullest and exited according to his own terms. I just got back from my morning walk, walking for the first time while knowing that he will never pass me on our intersecting routes, to smile and wave again. I will miss his presence with us on this earth. I already do.