June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Humbling Journey From Cancer to Corona Days

Suddenly, to our great shock, the entire world is in the exact same position that we have been for almost the whole year. We have been practicing physical distancing all this time. We have not seen our grandchildren, even when our grandson was born to Dina and Ilan. We did not attend his shalom zachor or bris, and five months later we still have not met him, embraced him or smothered him with our loving kisses. He and his beautiful sisters, as well as all our lovely grandchildren, are growing up before our eyes through pictures and FaceTime, and now blessedly the newest platform of Zoom.

The distance is painful, though. Our daughter Nisa and her family moved this summer and we have never seen or been to their new home. Another granddaughter, Maytal, was Vashti in her Purim play, and once again we were only able to enjoy and view it online. Fortunately, her third- grade class was able to perform it before a live audience, days before we all became a part of a Brave New World.

What thoughts can I share that might be of support to everyone going through this trying time together but separately? Last Pesach, things began to be concerning for my husband Shmuel. We didn’t realize there was any real issue and it took a few more months and the support of true friends to determine what was happening.

A diagnosis of cancer is always unexpected and shocking. It puts you on a path that you never imagined existed and is a very humbling experience. You witness daily Hashem being in charge, helping you make the best choices and options as you deal with multiple tests, hours of infusions, days of chemo and weeks of hospitalizations due to complications. Your resources are used up, your time is no longer yours to decide how to spend it, and you are limited in movement, literally attached to a pole feeding the toxic but healing chemicals into your body for days on end. You may have several homes but for weeks and weeks your residence becomes a hospital bed, a small area that becomes your world.

Did I mention the angels Hashem brought to us on this journey? Caring, competent and thinking out-of-the box doctors and nurses. Fighters to heal. They would often ensure that my husband would be discharged minutes before Shabbat, which they knew was vitally important to him and his refuah. He would be exhausted, weak and have labored breathing, needing to sleep in a recliner chair as lying flat was not possible, but just being home for Shabbat and Yom Tov was a simple pleasure unexpectedly denied for weeks at a time.

On Rosh Hashanah he needed a wheelchair to get to shul, but he was in shul to daven with a minyan, hear the Torah reading and the shofar blowing. One of the biggest challenges was being in the hospital on Yom Kippur for his four days of chemo. How humbling to know that you have been chosen to daven without a minyan, in a hospital connected to a pole and needing to eat on Yom Kippur. We knew this would be happening two months ahead of time, but that it all aligned to actually happen was astonishing…and humbling. Our daughter Nisa knitted him special neck supports to make him more comfortable, left her family and flew to stay in the hospital with him that entire Yom Kippur.

The lesson of time repeatedly occurred. Many times during this period Shabbat became a grave concern and something to be keenly aware of and focused on. The first time was when we needed to ask and make use of the chesed of the Shabbat apartment available to those families desiring to be near their family member over Shabbat. We had hoped my husband would be discharged long before Shabbat, but realized that would not happen as the hours ticked away. Our son Zevi, who had left his own family to be with us, stayed in the hospital that Shabbat. I stayed home, but walked to hear Shani Taragin at Beth Aaron. As I listened to her speak about the importance of tears, I decided I would continue to walk to Hackensack Hospital and joined my husband and son for seduat shlishit and Havdalah.

The second time was when he was finally discharged less than a half hour before Shabbat. The entire day we requested that the staff focus on the discharge papers to ensure his departure in a timely manner, so everyone became aware of the importance of the Shabbat.

Another time his infusion of his bio therapy on a Friday ran overtime and the nurses and staff became keenly aware of the importance for it to be completed to enable him to come home before the Shabbat. With the devotion of our dear friends, Shabbat meals were delivered to our home and rides and wheelchairs were obtained. The joy of Shabbat was experienced deeply. Strength returned that allowed him to walk back and forth to shul to daven with a minyan.

All of our children gave of their time and came as often as they were able to be with him; Nisa for Yom Kippur, Shabbat and with Mordechai for Thanksgiving with their family at a distance, Noam and Deena and family for Sukkot and Chanukah, and Natan and Ilan for joyous Shabbatot. Ari was there all the time to help in every way. We were blessed that they all were able to be with us at that time.

We are all where we are supposed to be, and this is where Hakodesh Barechu is deciding we each need to be. Now that my husband is able to walk comfortably to shul, the shuls are shuttered for everyone. No one in the world is able to daven in a minyan.

After six torturous rounds of in-hospital round the clock intense chemo with many adverse complications, we made plans to celebrate my husband’s completion (Baruch Hashem) of his chemo treatment and our Hakarat Hatov to Hakodesh Barchu for his mercy, by taking all our children and grandchildren to a hotel for Pesach. We couldn’t wait to be all together. Hakodesh Barechu had other plans.

Now no one can go anywhere. No one can be together because of the threat of this plague. It takes your breath away. Everyone is learning the lesson of not being in control and yet connecting and being grateful for our many blessings. There is suffering and pain, discomfort and loss.

These are difficult times. It is up to each of us to understand that we will get through this together, though separately. This is what needs to be done for now. We need to be the best we each can be in our avoda, our service to Hakodesh Barechu.

As I was checking out the other day at ShopRite, the young woman cashier asked me what the $6 bone was for since she had seen others buying it. I explained to her that we have a tradition of a Seder plate and that we need to put the bone on it. She surprised me by sincerely responding, “You are the chosen people.” We need to be reminded of this. We are a light and an example for the world to learn from so they will see the majesty of Hashem. Chag sameach.

By Judy Hollander Davidovics

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