Not everyone who dies makes the news. But to their loved ones, the tragic loss of a young mother and wife in her prime makes the world go dark. This is a tribute to the remarkable Rachael Emily Masri, a true eshet chayil who returned her soul to its maker today after several years battling cancer.
I still remember our introduction. We had arranged a Skype date to discuss posts for JOY of KOSHER and it took about four days of me postponing it until that Friday morning when the stars finally aligned. I had no idea you had cancer.
I sat cross-legged on the couch, a rare quiet morning at home. Balancing my computer in my lap, I adjusted its webcam out of the range of focus of my baggy, striped lounge pants. Presenting what I hoped was the best possible angle for my bleary-eyed face, and with my tichel askew, I nervously hit the video icon.
What first struck me was your eyes. Crescent shaped, just like my daughter’s. Kindness radiated through the screen as we made introductions and got right down to business. I knew you weren’t a small-talker; I sensed your depth immediately. You gave a short laugh when I apologized for my “cracked-out exhaustion”. I still had no idea you were sick.
You patiently guided me through the JOY of KOSHER backend, and I was relieved when you non-judgmentally dismissed my lack of tech-savvy. You showed me the ropes, occasionally peppering our chat with personal anecdotes. At one point, you mentioned that you had survived stomach cancer, and would be going for some routine tests in the following week. But you said it in a manner that was strictly business related.
“That’s why I laughed when you mentioned how tired you were,” you smiled. “I was thinking, “Girl, you have no idea.”
Your candor was refreshing. It almost made me reveal my own experience with a tumor. But I was fine now, and you were still going for check-ups, and I in no way wanted to minimize your pain.
During that meeting, in addition to learning how to choose slugs and keywords, and navigate the image library for the perfect glossy mouth-watering food graphic, I somehow also learned of your son’s deafness as a result of misdiagnosed meningitis. I expressed my sympathy, hovering just at the edge of pity but not daring to cross the line — I could tell a strong woman like you wouldn’t go for that.
As we bid farewell, wishing each other a good shabbos and a “nice to have met you,” we both didn’t know you had cancer.
It was only a little while later that I learned what your upbeat email correspondence belied — your strength had been put to the test once again. As time progressed, I was amazed and awed by how I’d still see your friendly, humorous crowd sourcing posts on social media : “What does Kosher mean to you? Share your funny stories!”, when only a few days prior I’d received news of your dire prognosis.
It seemed as if the more G-d pulled your soul towards Him, the more passionate about living you became. Which, essentially, encapsulates your entire life’s journey, from becoming a ba’alat teshuva, to your subsequent move to Israel.
Like your namesake, Rachel Imenu, you encountered so many challenges in your short life. Events that would have people mad at G-d, touting the inequality of the world. But your faith never wavered. It couldn’t steal your laughter. Your outpouring of love and chesed for everyone didn’t dim. I pray that you advocate for us as she does, too.
On June 5, 2016, you posted to your Facebook wall: “Even if I never hear the word ‘remission’ or even if cancer takes my life, I will always be a survivor.” Rachael, you didn’t just survive, you thrived! You accomplished in your 32 years here in this world what people only dream to fulfill in a lifetime.
As I sit here crying at my desk, rereading our emails and wishing I could get a reply from you just once more, my heart breaks for all of us. Stripped of your light, your beauty, your kindness. May you rest in peace knowing that we will carry on your legacy and care for your three sweet babies, showering your family with the same love and strength you’ve shown everyone here.
May your memory be a blessing.