My father called that day “Black Monday.” It was the day that the doctor said to my parents, “I am sorry, but there is nothing more we can do for your son. It is your choice if you would like to let him die in the hospital or at home.” It wasn’t a decision. There was nothing my brother wanted more than to be at home. And so for the next two weeks we were there with my brother, watching his life slowly ebb away. We were all with him in the room that Friday morning when he was niftar.
My sister wouldn’t give up. She wanted nothing more than to live. So she turned deaf ears to her friends’ pleas of letting hospice come in to make her more comfortable. But that Monday when she was admitted to the hospital we knew she wouldn’t be coming home. I spent many hours that week at her bedside refusing to leave until she was nifteres.
My mother wasn’t doing well. Someone needed to travel in to be with her. My sisters had recently been there. It was my turn to go. By the time I got on the plane, she was in the hospital. I went straight from the airport to the hospital and stayed there with her as much as I could. I was right next to her as she was nifteres.
As each yahrtzeit comes along, I light the yahrtzeit licht and I remember. I remember what I had. I cry over what I lost. And I feel comfort that I knew to make the most of the last few months. Our last words were pleasant words. Our last interactions were caring ones.
On June 21, 2015, I attended a triple siyum l’ilui neshamos the three boys from Eretz Yisrael who were kidnapped and so brutally murdered. I walked in and was faced with three yahrtzeit candles, each one with the name of the niftar. I saw those dancing flames and was seized with such sadness. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain of these families. Each day my children leave to school, and I expect them to return. But on that day, three sons didn’t return. Three mothers saw their sons off one day, never thinking that they would never see their children again. And then comes the angst of not knowing – not knowing if their sons cried out for them. Did they suffer a lot? Did they suffer for long? There is no comfort in knowing that they were there for their children at the last moments.
These dancing flames make me marvel at how all Yidden are connected. I never would have thought that I would be at a siyum l’ilui neshamos these boys. Our worlds are worlds apart. And yet tonight we were deeply connected. I wonder if as there is a connection made in this world, there is a connection in the next? Do my parents have anything to do with these three boys? Is there something that has come full circle that I won’t know about in this world?
I always enjoy watching men dancing. On this night the dancing was full of simchah as the men celebrated the completion of Shas three times. It really was a beautiful and inspiring simchah. I am guessing that most of the people present never would have imagined that one day they would be learning l’ilui neshamos an Israeli bachur they had never met. The truth is that it’s the Torah that connects each Jew. No matter who and no matter where, our lives are so tightly intertwined.
On this night everyone was connected, united by the Torah they learned. We all have what to work on. But on the night of the siyum, the feeling was one of love for Hashem and His Torah.
No, these families don’t have the comfort of knowing that they were there for their children in their last minutes. But they have the comfort of knowing that their deaths have brought about substantial amounts of limud Torah. They have the comfort of knowing that their deaths have created colossal amounts of achdus.
As I walked out feeling inspired, the three yahrtzeit candles were still burning strongly. In my mind I saw the candles that burn in my house four times a year, each one for a different person. But I never thought I would see them burning for any of these three boys. I didn’t think there would ever be a real tangible connection from me to them.
On this night, in this world, I was connected to these three boys. The Torah learning that took place here in this town connected me to three Israeli boys that are no longer among the living. It wasn’t random that I ended up at this siyum. Hashem made events happen so that I should be there. I needed to have the connection to these neshamos tonight.
I never have a yahrtzeit too far off. Maybe next time I will light the yahrtzeit candle I will think not only of my loved one but of these three boys as well. Because I now know that in some way I am connected to these neshamos as well.