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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shabbat & Shiv'a

This was the last Shabbat before the rest of my family leaves. Everyone but my dad, who had to return to work immediately after the Bar Mitzvah, is still here.

My sister would have been happy to host us all again, but we were really hot at her place last Shabbat. So, despite the balagan (mess) at my home, everyone converged at our home.

Truthfully, it is more comfortable for me in my own home. (I imagine my sister feels the same way.)

Everyone helped make this Shabbat happen, especially my sister and sister-in-law. My youngest also helped above and beyond the call of duty, especially on Friday.

It was so great to be together for Shabbat. I love being with my brother and sister. We are all close and it is so hard for us to live so far apart.

I especially love watching my two kids playing with their cousins. (My eldest is still away on "seminarion.")

All of my son's best qualities come out when he is with his little cousins (ages 2 and 5). My nephews, God bless them, are a real handful. My son seems to have infinite patience with them. He is gentle, and tolerant, and caring. And he is so forgiving. One of his nephews broke off pieces from his model of the Beit HaMidash (that he built with his Abba, and is one of his most prized possessions); my son did not lose his cool nor bear his nephew a grudge (though he did lock his door for a few days).

My son recently mentioned that he wants to babysit for other kids. I can see that he will be good at it. He is responsible and nurturing around little kids. And he has that "magic" that his father has -- little kids love to be held and cared for by him.

Today, my son asked if he helped care for his little sister when she was a baby. He did. Quite well.

My youngest also has a very special relationship with her nephews. She has that same "magic." Her cousins adore her.

Amazingly, my two kids played with their cousins without any sort of competition. It was very heartwarming to watch them.

Shabbat ended too soon and we all needed to go our own way.

Moshe and I went to the Shiv'a of Tamar bat Na'ama, z"l. (I recently wrote about her in this post)

(I was surprised to meet at the Shiv'a two other people I know whose lives are touched by cancer. The husband of M, from my support group, who is related to Tamar's father. And R, who also has stage 4 breast cancer, is also related (I forget how). It was strange to come together in this way.)

Tamar was only 12 ½ when she lost her battle with cancer, last Tuesday. Her optimism and love of life made it easy for others to underestimate how sick she was. Many of her classmates did not even know that she was still in treatment. She just wanted to be a "normal" kid and live life to the fullest, which she did.

Like so many others, I also believed she would be okay. How could she not be, with such a fighting spirit?

I am so saddened by her death. I am so sad for her parents and her siblings.

And I am scared. She was young, and strong, and positive, and full of life.... If cancer can claim her life, after only four years....

I just don't want to think about it.

Tamar was an exceptional young girl, and her family did everything they could to help her live her life the way she wanted, with faith and joy and full of activity!

Tamar spent her last days at home, surrounded by the warmth and love of her family.

In her final moments, as breathing became increasingly difficult, she turned to her mother and father and said: "I feel that I am dying. I love you. Do not cry."

Then, with her final breath, she recited: שמע ישראל ה' אלקינו ה' אחד
(Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one)

I pray that when my time comes I will have the strength to let go with the same grace.

יהי זיכרה ברוך -- May her memory be a blessing

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

With love and optimism,


MsCaroline said...

RivkA-You don't know me (I stumbled across your blog via someone else's blog) but I have been reading for some time now via an RSS feed and so enjoy your warm and honest writing about your journey, your friends and family, and of course, your terrific kids!
I hesitated to send this comment because I know that everyone's cancer is different and it can get frustrating when people try to make comparisons. I hope, however, that what I am about to relate will bring you encouragement and remind you of the fact that none of us are statistics! One of my dearest friends was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 1999- very aggressive, and sadly initially misdiagnosed, leading to a very grim initial prognosis, every lymph node positive, etc. Just a year after surgery, chemo, and radiation- in fact, only months after finishing radiation and getting an 'all clear' scan- we learned that she had already developed mets in both lungs. We were terrified. The reason I tell you this? She called me yesterday from a limo her husband had rented for the evening to take her out for a celebration of her TEN YEAR survivorship (nine since the lung mets). No, it's not been easy, but she has been able to raise her 4 kids, enjoy her family, and do all the things she has wanted to. (And no, she didn't use any herbal medicine or go to another country for special treatment.) I just wanted to let you know that, despite grim statistics and seemingly impossible odds, she is here. Like you, she made up her mind to live her life and be a mom to her kids, one day at a time. Nine years ago, none of us were daring to hope for NINE years...but each day added up, and she's here.
Be encouraged, RivkA. It's a privilege to read your blog and I thank you for sharing this journey with the world.
You are in my prayers!

Batya said...

RivkA, wonderful post.
Shavua Tov and Refuah Shleimah
ps I hope you don't mind my repeating this again, but you really are amazing.

Sarah said...

Rivka, thanks you for sharing those intimate last minutes with the very special girl who tragically passed away. I got goose bumps. She was wise beyond her years. MAy her memory be a blessing.
And MsCaroline- I loved your letter. I loved the limo, and the hope. It's true that one day at a time can all-of-a-sudden add up to 10 years. Ken, y'hi ratzon! (May it be Gd's will). Love you, Riv.

RivkA with a capital A said...

MsCaroline -- Thanks for sharing! Your friend's story certainly does provide hope and encouragement!

Muse -- Thanks!

Sarah -- Last night was one of those nights when blogging really helped me process....

Cheryl Pitt said...

Oh my, what grace and beauty. God bless Tamar. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

Thank you, RivkA, for your kind words.
Tamar lost her battle, but I have no doubt that her spirit and optimism gave her both time and quality of life.
We cry for her, but at the same time thank G-d for the beautiful 12 1/2 years she had.
I know what spirit, strength and optimism you have.
Please don't let Tamar's death weaken you.
She wouldn't want it.

Naama, Tamar's mother

RivkA with a capital A said...

Naama -- You are really so special to be worrying about someone else at this time.

You should know that both Tamar and you have strengthened me.