April 20, 2024
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April 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Tribute to Dr. Elliot Samet, z”l

I could not possibly capture what Dr. Elliot Samet, z”l, means to my family, but allow me to try. I moved to Passaic, New Jersey, nine years ago, right after my youngest daughter was born. It was a difficult time for me personally, as my father had just been diagnosed with cancer. When my father came to visit me, he davened at BTU, and Dr. Samet frequently saw him there. Dr. Samet’s natural compassion was such that he noticed the new man in shul who appeared to be cold and shivering. No sweater could warm my father due to the sickness inside. Dr. Samet could not do enough for him. His humanity was such that he was extremely bothered by this and would ask me whenever he saw me, “What can we do for your father? I just wish we could do something for him.” I felt the warmth of his kindness. Dr. Samet’s empathy, for not only the suffering of my father but for the powerlessness of his loved ones to alleviate it, profoundly moved me. I felt an immediate bond with him that would only strengthen in the years to come.

My father’s condition worsened. I spent as much time as I could at the hospital. On the Friday before the last Shabbos of his life, I prepared to leave for the hospital. My friends came to my home to stay with my children. However, when my daughter woke up from her nap, I saw that she had developed croup. As croup often does, she presented with symptoms that appeared perhaps more terrifying than they warranted. She gasped, wheezed and sounded like she could barely breathe. She cried, buried her head inside the crook of my neck and clung to me for dear life. It was at that point the most agonizing moment of my life—to be torn between the love and duty of a mother toward her sick child, and the love and duty of a daughter toward her dying father. I was distraught and completely immobilized. I did not know what to do. I called Dr. Samet. He said, “Go to your father. I’ll take care of your baby. She will be fine. I’ll come to the house over Shabbos. Don’t worry. Trust me and go to your father.”

And so I went. Dr. Samet made housecalls to my daughter Bassy over Shabbos and personally checked to make sure that she was fine and that her croup was not dangerous. I had peace of mind knowing that she was safe and in good hands. I remained at my father’s bedside until the moment he took his last breath. I will always be grateful to Dr. Samet for gifting me that.

My father was niftar in the morning and his levaya was held a few hours later in Brooklyn. There wasn’t much time to get the word out, as we needed to get him to the airport to reach his final resting place in Israel. While much of what took place in those ensuing hours remains a blur to me, one thing I do remember is seeing Dr. Samet’s face among the crowd. That he made the time, on such short notice, to travel to Brooklyn for my father’s funeral in the midst of his busy schedule—astounded me. Perhaps I should not have been surprised. A person who felt so much, could do no less.

Dr. Samet was in many ways the old-fashioned family doctor of yesteryear. The kind who makes house calls. The kind who calls after a visit to see how your child is feeling. Like the grandfather who manages to make every grandchild feel like he’s the favorite, my children each felt they shared a kesher with him. Even my mother was connected to Dr. Samet. When she came to Passaic for the weekend and got sick or needed a doctor, he would always see her without fail.

There were so many things to admire about Dr. Samet, even beyond his medical skill and dedication. His Yiras Shamayim—he said a tefillah before giving each child a shot. His humility—he insisted that my husband call him “Elliot” and not “Dr.” His commitment—his zeal for the safety of the community’s children was legendary, providing education on many issues including wearing sunblock, helmets when bicycling and avoiding drinking on Purim.

And who could forget the famous Samet family Purim visits? It would not be Purim without stopping by the Samet home and taking a photo in our family costumes. Year after year, the first post-Purim visit to Dr. Samet’s office, the children made a beeline to the collage hanging on the wall, eagerly seeking out their photo. There is nothing that makes a child feel like they belong like seeing themselves on the office wall.

There are so many stories told about Dr. Samet. These are but a small glimpse of my own. Perhaps the most descriptive story is this: Upon hearing the news of his passing, three generations of my family cried.

Our relationship with Dr. Samet will not end. It will transform into a new kind of relationship. A relationship of memories. A relationship where we call upon his wisdom and remind ourselves of what Dr. Samet would say, and what Dr. Samet would do. A new pediatrician may preside over our children’s future well visits, but Dr. Samet will always be our family doctor.

We are heartbroken by his loss, but also feel blessed for the privilege of having known him. For having been the recipient of his dedication, warmth and compassion. For having had nine years of Dr. Samet as a partner in raising our children, in many ways, in raising ourselves—to be the confident, competent parents he always believed we could be. And for that, we will always be grateful.

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