Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shiva call

You all know I have honed the doom-and-gloom thing to perfection. Horrific things await us, I know it and that's why I think it's important to try to find joy in something everyday, to see good in everyone I meet, and to try to be thankful for all I have. What can I say? It's a basic philosphy of my life.

You would think that the story I am about to tell you would reinforce the doom-and-gloom theme of my life. But it does not. I'll go into why after I tell the story.

About two months ago a woman I'll call Amy (okay, I'll call her that because it's her name) contacted me via e-mail. She was a reader of the blog and was in Israel with her husband and triplet 7-year-olds on an extended (6 weeks!) pilot trip in preparation of her Aliya this coming July. One of the neighborhoods she was considering was the one we live in and she asked if we could meet for a cup of coffee so I could answer some questions she had.

Always eager to recruit people to the 'hood, and never one to turn down a cup of coffee (which we all know is a euphemism for Breakfast! or Lunch!), of course I said, yes and we agreed to be in touch the following week.

Amy has an unusual last name and it turns out her husband was a cousin of a friend of mine. In further probing I found out that her husband was the son of members of our shul in the Five Towns, whom we knew.

I never did get to meet Amy. Several days after speaking her husband fell ill with Pneumonia. Very ill. He was hospitalized here in Israel and the situation became increasingly critical. I became a follower of Amy's on Twitter and looked for her frequent tweets. At one point her husband seemed to be improving but as the days and weeks on, the situation became more and more critical. I could not put Amy and her husband out of my mind. They had been through so much with his illness (he was in remission from lymphoma). They were so excited about planning their new life here. And then, this. As I followed her tweets, I got to know Amy a bit. She is a strong person with faith in G-d and an amazing sense of humor. The tweets for tehillim (psalms), challah baking and starting Shabbat early for her husband kept coming fast and furious from her and her faithful 'twitpacha' (twitter family).

While this was happening Amy made a huge decision: she decided to move up her Aliya date. While her husband lay ill she went to all the necessary offices, and completed all the necessary paperwork to declare her and her family Israeli citizens. And I kept checking her tweets, kept hoping, praying that a miracle would happen for her family.

You know from the title of this post that that that miracle did not come. Her husband, sadly, passed away last week.

Last night I went to see Amy, who was sitting shiva. In Israel, when doing this, one uses the expression "לנחם" [lenakhem]--to comfort, rather than the expression used in the states "paying a shiva call". Even though I never met Amy, I felt a pull to go see her and pay my respects-- for whatever small measure of comfort that would bring her. Isaac also felt a need to join me to see our old shul friends.

We walked into the home, to find a small, lively crowd there. Amy and her sister-in-law (also a former Five-Towner--I know I've met her before, or perhaps stood behind her in line at Gourmet Glatt) were joking around--that dark, black humor that is really funny, and really sad and scary at the same time. Isaac and I looked at each other and smiled. We know that humor and used it all the time back when Liat was ill. I'm not sure people who have not had these kind of experiences understand the jokes, but Isaac and I definitely got it.

Amy was exactly as I expected. She had a commanding, vibrant presence and an open and engaging personality. When I introduced myself, she smiled warmly, knew exactly who I was and made me feel good about my decision to come. I thought it would be a very difficult shiva call to make, but Amy made it easy.

I did almost lose it at one point. Amy told us about her decision to move forward her Aliyah. Most people in her difficult situation would have likely given up and said, you know what, much as I believe in living in Israel, I have a husband who is not well and as soon as he is recovered enough, we are going home where I know what-is-what, where I have plenty of family and friends and speak the language. Not Amy. When she realized that her husband's situation was very, very serious, she decided to make his lifelong dream come true. She said, "I wanted him to die an Israeli. I know that is what he would have wanted." She continued to tell us that she intends to stay in Israel, she is determined to make her life here, raise her children in our land to fulfill her husband's last wish.

I am in awe of this woman, of her love, of her strength, of her humor, of her raw honesty, of the comfort that she brings to people at a time when she is the one who should be comforted. I didn't feel doom-and-gloom, but rather hope and devotion.

מי כעמך ישראל?

Wishing Amy all the best. Her husband's name was Eliezer Baruch Chaim ben Rochel Leah. יהי זכרו ברוך. May his memory be for a blessing.

Update: (from In the Pink) Amy and the triplets will need continued financial help as they learn to live without Barry. The expenses are significant, and they will continue for years to come. To ease their considerable financial burden a trust has been set up that will help with both immediate and longer-term expenses such as bar/bat mitzvahs, tuition, weddings, etc. Please contribute. Checks should be made payable to “Barry Shuter Family Trust.”

Please send to:
Adam Hofstetter
441 Oak Avenue
Cedarhurst, NY 11516

In addition, money can be donated via credit card to the Barry Shuter Family Trust at Rootfunding.

Thank you so much for your help.


SuperRaizy said...

I don't know Amy and Barry personally, but everyone here in NY was praying so hard for his recovery. Kol Hakavod to Amy for her decision. I hope that she and her children find peace and happiness in Israel.

OneTiredEma said...

I never wanted Miss M to go to her first shiva when she was in first grade, but there you have it.

We came to know Amy through basically the same means--but they came to our house on Shabbat afternoon a few days before Barry fell ill. (Taxman probably facilitated his last aliyah l'Torah.)

I know had I been in her place I would have come to a different conclusion--B"H she has so much inner strength and her personality has brought her an enormous amount of support (in addition to her family here).

Maybe one day we'll get her out of the Gush? ;) We could use more of her here.

Anonymous said...

I've only been following the story via Twitter, and your post was beautifully written, and now I feel like I know Amy. Wishing her comfort in memories.

Anonymous said...

I've only been following the story via Twitter, and your post was beautifully written, and now I feel like I know Amy. Wishing her comfort in memories.

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