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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Shloshim -- Pia Regev z"l

It was really important for me to attend the azkara (memorial service) for Pia's shloshim (event marking thirty days since a person died).

I had missed her funeral and the shiv'a (7 day mourning period). (I wrote about it here)

I needed closure.

But I was so very tired. I spent the whole day at home, resting, and I was still tired.

I did not want to drive. I did not want to miss it.

We live in the South East corner of the city. The azkara was in the North West corner of the city. It is about a half hour drive, each way.

At the last minute, I remembered that there is a bus that crosses town. It runs once an hour.

God must have wanted me to go, because when my eldest checked the schedule for me, the bus was about to come in three minutes. I was still in my pajamas.

I threw on clothes, grabbed my bag and ran out the door.

I caught the bus.

Forty five minutes later, I arrived, right on time.

I introduced myself to Pia's daughters and her husband.

I recalled how Pia shared her children's joke about installing an automated phone system ("for information about Pia's health, please press 1")

I also shared with them the positive role model Pia was for me. I met her shortly after I was diagnosed, and I was impressed and encouraged by her positive attitude and her fortitude.

Despite the prognosis that she had only several months left to live, Pia kept working and living her life. She lived for five years, longer than anyone expected (though shorter than I realized).

My initial memories are of her discussing her son's upcoming wedding. In addition to the "normal," mundane things, like what to wear, Pia talked about controlling her treatment -- she was determined to put off several treatments until after the wedding, so that she would have the energy to celebrate the way she wanted. And she did.

Until then, I did not realize that I could have a say about when and how I got my treatments.

Thanks to Pia's example, I figured out how to move around my treatments so that I would not miss smachot (celebrations) and other important events/occasions.

The evening opened with a siyum (ceremony marking the completion of learning of a text) by her son, who finished learning masechet parah (the tractate about the parah adumah (red heifer) needed for ritual purity).

Then Pia's husband talked about the centrality of Jerusalem to Pia's life. Born in Jerusalem, Pia was nine when the city was reunited in 1967. The reunification of the city was a pivotal event in her life, and she often shared stories of that time. I wish I would have known. I would have loved to hear her stories.

Her family felt that her most outstanding attribute was that of hessed (kindness). So they invited the head of Ma'aglei Tzedek ("Circles of Justice"), an organization committed to social justice, to speak. Ma'aglei Tzedek is probably best known for their "tav chevrati," certification that an establishment, such as a restaurant, pays its workers minimum wage and is wheelchair accessible.

I could not help but think of my own limitations. Just an hour earlier, I struggled to get on to the bus. Because of the cancer in my hips, I cannot lift my legs up very far, making it difficult to climb onto the bus. Afterwards, I realized the bus could "kneel," but the driver did not identify me as someone who needed help, and did not lower the bus, even as I struggled to get on. My limitations are "invisible," even more so because I am relatively young.

I was impressed when the speaker shared that when she heard about the tav chevrati, she decided that she would no longer eat in restaurants that are not fully accessible, to everyone. She talked about the ripple effect, about how her friends know that if they want to go out with her, this is one of the factors, if not the main factor, that will determine where they eat.

Every time I go to a restaurant where the bathroom is up or down stairs, it bothers me. (I was surprised to see several restaurants on the Ma'aglei Tzedek website listed as wheelchair accessible, which they are... unless the person in the wheelchair needs to use the restrooms! That is not what I call fully accessible.)

Finally, the speaker spoke of the difference between hessed (kindness) and tzedek (justice). Hessed, she explained, is when you help someone with something they cannot do on their own; tzedek is when you remove the barriers that prevent them from taking care of themselves.

The speaker, a young woman with an Anglo accent, spoke softly. Nevertheless, she was powerfully articulate. As tired as I was, her words drew me in and held my attention.

Afterwards, family and friends were invited to share their thoughts and memories. Some spoke spontaneously, other read from previously composed letters.

By the end of the evening, I felt like I had a deeper sense of who Pia was. I was surprised to learn that she was very assertive about non-smoking, and would complain to the management if someone was smoking in a non-smoking area. I had not realized this was an obsession a cause that we shared. I was not surprised to learn that she was an attentive and caring nurse, who often gave of herself above and beyond the call of duty. I was not surprised to hear her children speak of her guidance and how, even in her last days, she worried about them.

As the evening drew to a close, I worried about catching the last bus home.

God was good to me again. I found someone who could take me to a bus that ran more frequently. I did not have to rush out before the end.

The evening ended with two songs by Nomi Shemer, Shirat Ha'Asabim and Anashim Tovim.

יהי זיכרה ברוך -- may her memory be a blessing

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Daria said...

Thanks for sharing that story ... it is very moving.

Hope you can get some rest ...

Robin said...

Pia sounds like a wonderful woman. May her memory be a blessing to all who knew her.

I'm glad you were able to attend.

Cheryl Pitt said...

Thanks for sharing, that was lovely. I adore the idea of marking the thirty days. I would imagine that to be helpful with closure.

Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Great blog! I added you to my blogroll . "Cancer Blog Links" at www.beingcancer.net

Mrs. Who said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend Pia.