“You’d best go home, Sarah.”
“You have several days, a week at the most – I’m so sorry.”
He was wrong.
Although they couldn’t have known that, as they staggered, husband and wife, towards the parking lot of Hadassah Hospital.
The sun was setting and the Jerusalem sky was ablaze with a multitude of colors.
Her sun was setting and yet it was too early. Her life-clock read noon; there must be a mistake.
A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value
Her husband’s heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune
How would they tell the kids; it had all happened so quickly. “They’ll want to fly in as soon as they find out,” he said as he turned the key in the ignition. She nodded.
They drove in complete silence – there was nothing to say.
Maybe there was too much to say.
By the time they got home, it was already dark outside and neither had any appetite. She because of the meds and he because of the fear. Indescribable fear.
It was Wednesday night. Tomorrow was Thursday and on Friday the kids would come for the weekend.
She fell asleep.
He lay awake thinking. Dreading.
What would you do, if you awoke to a life measured in minutes instead of decades?
What would you do, if you awoke to indescribable pain, sorrow and uncertainty?
What would you do, if you awoke, but were unsure if you were actually awake?
Friends, let me tell you what she did.
She rises while it is still nighttime, and gives food to her household and a ration to her maids
She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms
Actually she sang:
King of Kings, Thank You for Life,
For abundance, for tears, for laughter,
Even amidst difficulty, even then my Creator,
You are never distant.
Would you lounge around, undressed, unkempt, confused, angry, sad?
She got dressed and put on makeup. She wanted to look beautiful. She wanted her family to remember her as she had always been.
Young, vibrant – alive.
Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds
In Belgium, her kids, all three of them, had already booked tickets and were packing. Their father had called them the night before to break the news.
They too were shell shocked; they too had had a sleepless night.
They too felt as though their world was falling apart. It was falling apart.
It couldn’t be true. She was the sweetest and kindest person in the world. She was their Mother.
Suitcases ready, the trio sat together to talk, to reminisce. They had been a handful growing up, of that there was no doubt. But she always had patience, everlasting patience. And always with a smile, the warmest smile in the world.
Perhaps they should have called more often. Perhaps they should have visited more often. Perhaps they should have said thank you more often. Perhaps they should have hugged more often. Perhaps if they had been more grateful…
She opens her mouth with Wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue
Her children rise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her: “Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all”
Her husband also awoke early and had gone to a nearby park to think, to clear his mind. 30 years flashed before him in an instant. They married young, but had waited years for the triplets. Money was tight in the early days and their marriage, well, had survived ups and downs. Decades later, money was no longer a problem, but his job was demanding, too demanding, and he was almost never home.
Perhaps he should have been home more. Perhaps he should have paid more attention. Perhaps he should have bought her that pendant. Perhaps he should have taken her on that trip. Perhaps he should have apologized. Perhaps he should have appreciated.
She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life
She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute
She felt weak suddenly. It wasn’t novel; most days were like this. So she sat down on the edge of the bed.
She smiled, remembering the days when her kids would come into her bed in the early morning and jump around. She would get aggravated, “Its 6am, go back to sleep!” she would say.
Not now. Now she would tell them to jump forever. Tomorrow, when they would come, she would apologize for not being more patient, and maybe they would jump again…
Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day
False is grace, and vain is beauty; a G-d-fearing woman, she should be praised
She felt dizzy suddenly. It happened all the time; it was a side effect of the medicine. So she put her feet up and leaned on the backboard.
She looked around the room. They had moved in almost 20 years ago, and every piece of furniture was handpicked and had special meaning.
On the walls, pictures of her grandchildren. Each special, each beautiful, each with their own unique character and disposition. She had hoped so much to be able to be there for school celebrations and graduations.
On the night table, a Prayer book from her youngest daughter’s wedding. What a beautiful wedding it had been; they had danced and danced till the wee hours of the morning. Everything had been so special, so perfect, so full of life.
She felt tired suddenly. Her eyelids felt heavy.
“Just going to close my eyes for a second.”
The kids were coming in tomorrow for the ‘last weekend’. They would tell their Mother, how much they loved her. They would tell her how sorry they were for not being better children. They would tell her how much she meant to them. They would tell her how the world would have no meaning without her. They would tell her tomorrow.
He started heading home and was formulating the sentences in his mind as he walked. Sorry for the anger. Sorry for the austerity, the strictness, the pedantry. Sorry I was never there. Sorry I didn’t buy you that necklace, or take you on that trip. Sorry I didn’t appreciate you. He would tell her tomorrow.
Was too late.
He came home and called her name, but no one answered.
I ran across the street when the beeper came in. I knew the apartment well; I had been there before. The door was open and I raced inside, not stopping to knock, or announce myself.
He was standing in the doorway of the room.
She looked like she was asleep. But she wasn’t.
She had returned her soul to its Maker; singing His praises in heaven, as she had done on earth.
I looked back at him, unable to find the right words.
He spoke first. “Is it the end?” he asked, sobbing already, because he knew the answer.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s the end.”
If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your spouse for the longest time, but were too busy – say it now.
If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your parents for the longest time, but were too uncomfortable – say it now.
If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your child for the longest time, but hadn’t found the right words – say it now.
If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your grandfather for the longest time, but were too lazy – say it now.
If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to G-d for the longest time, but didn’t know He was listening – say it now.
Don’t wait for tomorrow.
For tomorrow might never come.
May her memory be a blessing, and “May the Almighty comfort her loving family amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Dedicated to the Women of Valor in my life; ES, MS, MW, OS, and SF. May you live long, healthy, happy and prosperous years, and have much gratification from your beautiful families.