Aryeh with Pita
Always in tie-dye, this time on a camel
Summer 2012, Israel
For well over three years, my son Aryeh fought the fight of his life. As he struggled between life and death at times, I began to see the world through renewed eyes. Our family felt virtually alone as we dealt with the daily agony of our teenage son and Dovi's brother. We navigated each day with endurance, yet we were in pain too.
While the darkness felt impermeable at times, it wasn't. There were so many angels that entered our lives, sometimes for a moment and some of them are still active in our lives to this day. There were friends cooked our food, others that created a fund to offset the costs of Aryeh's medical bills, and still others that were there at the drop of a hat. Some of our closest friends couldn't be present, but virtual strangers opened up their arms to help. We felt surrounded by love so much of the time.
One of the most loving acts came the day we came home from Aryeh's first brain surgery. We had been forced out of the hospital too soon because the "only" bed available was in a room with another teenage boy who couldn't stop screaming due to his own agony. The boy's screaming paralyzed our son in so many ways. While we were in the hospital someone was supposed to come over with food and fill our refrigerator, but she became too anxious because of our significant food allergies/needs and instead brought nothing. We came home physically and emotionally wiped to no food; it shouldn't have been a big deal, but it was. Aryeh was not ready be home and we were all in pain. I remember Michael, Aryeh's father, calling our friends Paula and John; he was so distraught at what was going on and they rushed over with enough food to sustain us for days. They looked at their house and used all the food they had and then some to prepare for our needs. Paula and John continued to cook for us for years and probably would continue if we lived a little closer. :)
Following this day, our friend Wicca (and maybe someone else) organized all of our food for months and months. People took care of us; they tried to take care of Aryeh. Aryeh was too sick; it was years before he was ok. Later we needed to go from Washington, DC to Los Angeles and people helped us every step of the way. We couldn't have made it emotionally, physically, or financially if people weren't there. One special angel was my friend Miriam who was with me as Aryeh quite literally fought for his life in an LA hospital and then opened up her home for us to stay for weeks following surgery.
Every step of the way, people were there.
Our friend John and his sons opened up their home to Dovi. Dovi must have stayed at their house for weeks if not months during Aryeh's illness. They never asked for a dime; John just assumed he had three sons. And later when were able to celebrate Aryeh's life, John and his housemate Patrick, opened up their home so that we could have a Celebration of Life Party in honor of Aryeh's recovery.
Amy gave and gave in so many ways; as did our friends Stuart and Lisa. Idie and Tamar came for the holidays so that we would have the holidays; Pesach was the hardest, but you would have never known because of how they chipped in to take care of us in every way. People were coming out of the woodwork to help support us through hell.
A few friends drove two hours to the hospital to drop off food even though we couldn't be with them. Some people drove Dovi to and from where he needed to go. A couple of Marines dropped off a large screened TV because Michael went on Freecycle and shared our story. When Aryeh came home initially after the first surgery, he struggled to see; these two strangers gave us a TV so Aryeh would be able to see it. And then they stayed and just hung out with our teenage son.
Simple acts of kindness go a long way.
In those years of serious illness, I learned that a smile makes a difference. A hug can make everything better if only for a moment. A pack of colorful, silly tissues are worthy of having in your hand. A box of citrus chamomile tea warms your heart. Mandalas made by friends and strangers surrounded our family with healing powers while hundreds of my Jewish Educator friends from all over the world sang a healing song for Aryeh as struggled in ICU for his own healing.
We were surrounded by love and care. Aryeh's friends made him tie-dye sheets that are still with him to this day; in fact, we made sure he was wrapped in his sheets even as he laid intubated after his second surgery. Nothing about this time was easy, but we made it through because of simple acts of kindness by some of our closest friends as well as some strangers. Some made time to sit with us and be present sometimes in silence and sometimes to play games. Others made sure our daily needs were met. The bottom-line is that even when we felt alone, we weren't alone, not really.
Each and every act made a difference. Strangers, friends, loved ones sustained us when we had little hope. And new friends joined us as we healed. I will forever be grateful for Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation where I worked during the beginning of Aryeh's illness and Bethesda Jewish Congregation where I worked during the healing years. Both communities were loving, kind, and present when our family needed them.
Simple acts of kindness allowed us to focus on healing from what could have been a tragedy.
May each of us be blessed to touch another's life for good! May we remember that we can make a difference when we choose to step up to the plate.
With love, light, and gratitude