April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Father’s Letter on His Son’s 13th Yahrzeit

Editor’s note: Eitan Shapiro z”l, a Teaneck resident, passed away at age 18, after surviving cancer well beyond expectations. His father, on Eitan’s 13th yahrzeit, writes to his son, musing on Eitan’s unique contributions.

Dear Eitan,

Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Elul, which is a reminder that Rosh Hashanah is just a month away. But for your family and friends it is a reminder also that you are no longer with us in this world. It is now 13 years since you left us, and there are so many changes that have occurred in the family. Popop Howard, Bubby Fenia and your great-grandmother, Nana Tilley, joined you; Eli and Ayelet got married, and you now have 11 nieces and nephews. The only nephew you ever met, Menachem, was a bar mitzvah this past year. Grandma Malca is T”G well and living in Scranton. You now have a countless number of cousins, mostly married, and second cousins.

There are so many things that I can remember about you.

I remember meeting you and mommy at the hospital and feeling your pain as the doctors inserted a tube to drain fluid from your chest, the call from mommy the next day when she told me that they found a mass in your chest, your doctor, Michael, telling me that we are hoping that it is lymphoma because that is curable, and the meeting with your doctor right before Shabbos when he told us that it was lymphoma and your treatment would be 108 weeks.

I remember how the doctors broke down when they told us that you had relapsed and again when they told us that sepsis had set in; mommy pleading with the doctors to take a CT scan and finding that the disease was choking you and, near the end, propping you up next to me all night when you said to me “Daddy, I can’t breathe.”

Eitan, there are so many bad memories regarding your illness that I would like to forget, but there are also some good memories that I will remember forever. I remember the party when mommy cooked up a turkey Friday morning and I carved it up in your hospital room and we shared it with anyone and everyone who walked in the room. I remember the Pesach trip to Italy that the entire family took thanks to Make a Wish Foundation, and your graduation from Frisch that you attended only a day after you left the ICU. I can still see the shocked happiness on your friends’ faces when they saw you at graduation.

Shaving your head in a mohawk before it fell out. The trips to Roland who provided alternative treatments that you always looked forward to. Thank you, Roland.

Your upbeat nature throughout your illness was legendary. Your friends would visit you and you gave them so much strength because they saw that you always kept a positive attitude. I remember once in the morning while in the hospital how I was explaining to Adena on the phone a procedure that you had the previous night. I thought that you were asleep. I got exasperated with her questions and finally responded, “Adena, Eitan has cancer.” You lifted your head from the pillow, looked me in the eyes and with a shocked look said, “What? I have cancer?”

How can I forget the legendary trip up Mount Washington, when driving close to the edge of the road was so scary that mommy said, “Look away to the left.” And your response was a cheery, “I’m looking to the right.” We have it on video and your nieces and nephews cannot watch it enough.

The fishing trips were so memorable because we never caught anything. But you still looked forward to every trip, checking the newspapers for places to go. I have a large poster of you fishing, forever hanging in my office. It is one my favorites. Your back is to the camera but I can make out that you are smiling.

Your bar mitzvah in Israel with Noah.

Eitan, I can go on and on with my thoughts about you. I just want you to know that your good nature and smile are remembered and missed every day by your family and friends. Your final thought to us, “Tell everyone that I am ok,” only a day before you passed, is what keeps us believing that you are in a better place.

Please continue to watch over us.

Love,

Daddy

Contribute to Eitan’s Hope for Children, the organization established by his family, by clicking here: http://eitanshopeforchildren.org/about.html.

By David Shapiro

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