Because someone is always saying, “May we always meet for simchas.” And of course, my husband gets called during the wedding (at least during the meal, after most of the excitement) because someone lost his father today. Baruch Dayan Emet.
And I recalled the story, for the second time this week, about how we can’t judge what Hashem wants of us, or even have a clue, from our perspective.
This is the story I alluded to back along blog-time ago. I couldn’t remember when I wrote it (and so it’s so funny hahhah that it was about memory), so I searched for the word that I knew would be the key: Aibishter. I remembered I had to google it to figure out how to spell it. So here it is:
A few years back, when my mother had already been sick for a while, we went out to visit her and during the visit, saw our daughter’s grandmother-in-law, who was a wonderful woman. She was always vibrant, with a huge smile that warmed you up from the inside out. She smiled her smile and said the now-going-to-be-infamous line, “I don’t understand why the Aibishter keeps your mother alive.”
After a stunned moment, which may have felt like a world, I answered, “Because my father still needs her.”
It was truer than true. He was not ready to let her go because he needed to give back to her for all the extraordinary things that she did for him. Not that she ever played the tit-for-tat game at all, or would have ever thought of getting what she deserved, besides gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, but that’s a different kettle of stories. But that he needed to honor her in a way that was significant and loving. And as I reflected on it, it rang deep and somehow satisfying.
The story goes on, as good stories do. That evening, we met with our machatanim for dinner. I told our mechutan, “You know I love your mother, but she really threw me for a loop today” , and then told them what had happened earlier that day. “Ohhhhh!”, he said, and then told us how everything was becoming very clear. Apparently, she had gone home after meeting with us and called her son and told him “I’m so lonely.” Something I didn’t mention before is that she was quite deaf, so talking on the phone was somewhat challenging for the listener, if s/he wanted to get information accross. “What?”, he kept asking her, and she kept repeating “I’m so lonely.”
What my parents still had, in a bizarre way, was indeed companionship. She had been widowed for a very long time already, but now was feeling the loneliness of her life. So, thanks to my mother, they sold the house, moved her to an assisted living facilities, and on to the next chapter.
The next time I went to visit her after she was settled in to her new digs, she was smiling her huge smile, holding court with all the people there. Now here’s the added bonus; another woman comes over to me and says, “I just turned 100 years old last week, but it didn’t mean anything to me, because every day was just like the day before. But now that she lives here, and I get to see her smile at me, I feel like each day is a gift that I am happy to get.”
And on and on.
It doesn’t matter to our story that she got sick not too long after that and succumbed to her illness a while later, because for a while she was very happy and she was able to help others. But it matters that she was there for some important junctures and points that needed to be made.
I try to tell this story to rabbis who need this information to understand quality of life. I like to tell the story to social workers who need validation and support. And I want the story known for the sake of my mother, who was here for us in ways that I need to keep finding out.