Some readers may recall an article I published on May 21st. It was entitled “Simcha Brings Simcha” and described my relationship with a friend named Simcha who sought constantly to be of emotional comfort and aid to me during the very painful days and months watching my beloved wife die of cancer.
In it I wrote of his warmth and comfort, always inviting me to join him for a meal or even if only for a coffee. It was his well-meaning effort to relieve me from my tensions and despair by getting me out of my apartment even for a short period of time.
Until now, I was not able to accept his kind invitation. I could not leave my wife’s bedside. Now, my wonderful daughter has taken a leave of absence from her government position and has moved into our apartment. She sleeps on the bed together with my wife, her arms encircled about a frail body, and clutches her lovingly 24 hours a day. I bring her meals into the bedroom as she will not leave my wife alone.
When Simcha made his usual phone call to inquire of Rahel’s condition and of my emotional, physical, and mental well-being earlier in the week and to wish us a Shabbat shalom, he once again extended the hand of friendship and insisted that we meet for a coffee. With my wife on her death-bed and my tearful upset daughter lying beside her, I finally accepted the invitation to sip coffee with Simcha.
We met early in the afternoon of erev Shabbat and spent two hours sipping an iced coffee and talking. He let me pour out my heart and he felt the depth of my emotions. Simcha is a religious Jew and believes in the power of miracles. He is full of hope. “Hakol b’yday shamayim” he repeats to me. But regrettably there is no miracle that can cure the final stages of a terminal death of pancreatic cancer.
He talks to me about a brighter future, the love of my children and especially my grandchildren, and tells me that it is not the end of my life; I am needed by my immediate family and many dear friends. He is a devoted reader of TIMES OF ISRAEL and comments always on an article which I had written. He supports me when I tell him that the muse will die when my wife dies and he dismisses it as pure nonsense. He insists that I go on writing and sharing my thoughts and concerns with millions of readers of our daily newspaper.
We reminisce about our earlier years when Israel was a very different Israel, when people could be free to leave their doors unlocked when they went out shopping at the nearby makolet. We talk together in Hebrew and he tells me that he had been a student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1968, very exciting years following our 1967 war.
I mention that in the 1950’s my classes were held in the building of the Terra Sancta Catholic monastery in the center of West Jerusalem. Lecture rooms were rented by the Hebrew University while its Mount Scopus campus was under Jordanian control. I recalled in particular two outstanding professors, Alexander Dushkin, for his inspiring lectures on Jewish education and its earliest beginnings, and another professor, Ernst Simon, who, in German-accented Hebrew, painted beautiful pictures of early Zionism.
Happier days. Warm memories. Friendships that remained for 62 years, until death separated us.
Simcha is an unusual man. Sipping coffee with him, exchanging thoughts, sharing early memories of long-ago years, discussing present politics (a dreadful subject), and parting two hours later with hugs and blessings, is an inspiration. It assures me that genuine friendships do still exist. Two hours of coffee-sipping and heart-to-heart conversation relieved me of some of the terrible burdens in my heart that weigh me down while waiting for the eventual but unwanted visit of the malach ha mavet (angel of death).
With all the remarkable angels in the heavenly spheres, why could God not send a more beloved one?
Mi-yemini Michael u’mi smoli Gavriel. MilfanaI Uriel u’mi achorai Rafael u’mi al roshi Shechinat El.
But Hashem in His infinite Wisdom chose another angel, one named Simcha, to ease my pain, to end my tears for the moment and even to bring a simple smile across lips that move to pray for God’s Mercy.
The philosophy of my entire life has been consumed with one Talmudic reference which I repeat very often. “O chevruta o mituta”… give me friendship or give me death. For a life without true friends is not a life.
God has blessed me with the friendship of His angel Simcha.