When someone you love is suffering

The Pasuk in Devarim states: הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ כִּי כָל דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט אֵל אֱמוּנָה וְאֵין עָוֶל צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר הוּא  (“The Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God Who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”)

This statement acknowledges that, no matter what, all that Hashem does is perfect. We often do not understand or comprehend His works. But that is not our task in this world. Our task is not to comprehend the “why” but to accept that God is pure perfection.

I have found myself uttering the words of this Pasuk multiple times a day over the past week. The other night, we got a call that my mother-in-law, was rushed to the hospital. As those of you know who have followed my blogs over the past few years know, my mother-in-law has suffered from dementia/alzheimer’s, for a long time now. But it was other circumstances and issues that landed her in the hospital. My wife was at her bedside shortly after we got the call and (except to go to sleep) has not left her bedside. I have spent some time there, as well, but not nearly as much as she.

And we sit…and we watch…and we look at each other. The roller-coaster ride is a difficult one: Does she look worse to you? Wait, is she breathing? She is moaning in such pain and if only she could tell us what hurts! She seems to be perking up a little. See! She made eye contact and even managed a few feeble words of love, through parched lips. Oh, wait, she seems to be in bad shape again.

I have known my mother-in-law for over fifty years and besides being my mother in LAW, she is my second mother. I met my wife when I was all of five years old. She was the neighbor down the next block, and I got to know her and her whole family as a little kids. We all played together and the woman, who would one day become my mother-in-law, was a part of that extended family early on. Not once, literally not even one time, in nearly 35 years of marriage have either of us EVER felt our mothers-in-law were the kind of which jokes are written. I love her like a second mother, and it hurts so much to watch her suffer.

“The Rock, His works are perfect…”

Yes, I know this and have said it to others hundreds of times. And I do believe it with my entire being. And yet, as I sit there and watch wave after wave of pain wrack her body; as I watch her moan and groan, it makes it that much more difficult to see. So sad, even though I accept God’s judgment. So heart-breaking.

And then, a little respite. She is asleep; or is she? Hard to tell at times. And when we have all left the hospital to go home for some much needed rest, every time the phone buzzes or whirs or rings or dings, we look at each other without uttering a word: is that the hospital?

Watching someone you love suffer is not easy in the least. Watching someone you love suffer can beat you down and cause you to withdraw into your own little world. What it has not done to us is to question “why.” And that is where faith and Emuna play an integral part. As I said above, our job is NOT to ask the “why” question but rather to accept God’s judgment and deal with it to the best of our abilities. We know that our Father does what is for our benefit and is best for us at all times. That, I do not question, even for a second.

It is also crucial to remember that life is filled with blessings…one needs to take into account a person’s life in total, not only the moment they lay ill in a bed. A person is blessed to have children, to watch them grow, watch them marry and the family expand, to have grandchildren…and, for many of us, to come home to Israel. It would be wrong to only look at these difficult times and see her life as THIS MOMENT. Her life has indeed been filled with the manifold blessings of God.

But, at this very moment, it still hurts……

“הצור תמים פעחו כי כל דרכיו משפט”

May Hashem, in His mercy, remove the pain and suffering of שרה ברכה בת דבורה.

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.