Wednesday, November 03, 2010

for RivkA

There are certain things I am comfortable blogging about, and certain things I am not.

I wasn’t going to blog about what happened last Friday.

But then yesterday, when I was at Orley’s house, playing hooky with Barak, right before I had to run out the door to catch the bus back to Jerusalem, my phone rang. It was a friend of RivkA’s, and she asked me please to write it up. I wasn’t sure what she meant. Write what up? Well, she said, it would be a nechama to the family if you would write it up, what you did on Friday. So I said, yes of course, I’ll write it up, and that’s what I’ve just sat down to do, although even now sitting at the computer I’m not sure what exactly to say.

I started reading RivkA’s blog… four years ago? I think? Something like that. Since then I’ve gone through phases with how much I read blogs, sometimes regularly, sometimes hardly at all, but I always checked in on hers every few weeks. Was she OK? How were her kids? How was she managing, with the Israeli healthcare system and everything in Hebrew and as an olah, with breast cancer?

I kept reading, but rarely commented, since the comments always seemed more like the schmoozing of a group of old friends than the comments section of a blog. I didn’t know any of them and so I just watched, much as one would watch from a couch on the periphery of a party, when the girl throwing the party is someone you just met in class, the most popular girl, who said, I’m having a party and I’d love you to stop by. And at first you think you won’t, but because the smile was real and the touch on your arm was warm, you stop by, and it’s a great party, and you watch your new friend and all her old friends and wish you were an old friend too. So you listen to the jokes and you laugh and don’t say much—and later, as you slip quietly out the door, you wish you’d been braver, said more, made a joke of your own.

I never said much, but I kept coming back. When we were planning our aliya, the months of paperwork and the weeks of packing, I checked in on RivkA. And a few weeks before we left, I finally posted a comment—soon I’ll be in Jerusalem! And maybe we’ll have a chemo date.

Right after we got here, in August, I emailed her. I live right near the hospital! I’d love to join you for a chemo date.

I didn’t get a reply, but I wasn’t hurt. I was the newcomer at the party. She was the popular girl. I knew the invitation had been genuine, but she had so many other friends.

The weeks went by, and I kept checking the blog, looking for another invitation, another opening to stop by anytime. But it didn’t come. Instead, I saw more and more reasons to worry. The posts were always positive. It’s just another bump in the road, she said. Always, with love and optimism.

When I saw posts that had been posted on her behalf, I felt a chill. Because a few years ago, I was the person posting on someone else’s behalf, when the someone else was a dear friend, another blogger, one with cancer. I knew what that meant.

We’d never had a chemo date.

When the call went out for help for the family, I emailed. I live right near the hospital, I said. I can walk over on Shabbos. Let me know if you need anything.

And again, the next week: I live right near the hospital. I can walk over on Shabbos. Maybe the family needs a break—I can come over, sit with her, keep her company. Here’s my cell phone number. Give me a call.

And on Friday, as I came down the stairs that lead to the road above our building, with my baby in the sling and my boys galloping down after me, I heard my phone ring. I picked it up and the woman on the other end was speaking Hebrew.

Do you speak Hebrew?

I speak some.

I’m a friend of Rivka’s and…

Baruch dayan emes.

The boys had gotten into a niche by the stairs where someone had left schach, long palm branches with the fronds still on, and started doing battle with them. I couldn’t hear the person on the phone. I asked them to be quiet, and they were so deep in their game they didn’t hear. Please be quiet, please be quiet, I need to hear this. Please!

I heard, “to do shmira…”

Can you, she asked?

I started to say, “I need to ask my husband,” but it came out, “Yes, of course I can. Just tell me when.”

When I got home, the phone rang again. What shift can you take? Midnight to eight? I can’t do that long, I said, I have a nursing baby—I didn’t know if I could take her with me. I could do two shorter shifts if I could come home in between and nurse. All right, I’ll call you back.

And then the phone rang again. Can you come now? In fifteen minutes? So people can go home for Shabbos?

I looked at the time and said yes and hung up. I picked up the baby and nursed her and quickly decided not to bring her—she’s eleven months, she’d survive without me and my breasts for a few hours. I told my husband he was on his own and as I ran out the door Barak said, “But what are we having for Shabbos dinner?” I called back over my shoulder, “Cookies!” and heard behind me three little boys yelling, “Yay!!”

(RivkA, you made three little boys very happy on Friday night.)

I got to the hospital and someone met me and we walked outside to the beit haniftarim, and she showed me where RivkA was and where the sifrei tehillim were, and the women who were before me finished and left and I was alone so I sat down and started saying tehillim.

אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ...

Aleph. Beit. I am not a tehillim zeiger. My Hebrew reading is not fluent enough; I don’t get a rhythm. It was cold.

לַיהוָה הַיְשׁוּעָה; עַל-עַמְּךָ בִרְכָתֶךָ סֶּלָה.

Gimel. Daled.

Someone came in. I was on zayin. She left. I started chet.

מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים, וְיֹנְקִים--

I couldn’t help it. I giggled. Nursing! From the mouths of nursing babies!

I put down the tehillim and looked toward RivkA, and I said, I’m sorry we didn’t have our chemo date. I should have brought the baby, because I think you’d like it if someone sitting shmira for you brought her nursing baby along. Do you think anyone’s ever nursed in the beit haniftarim? Did you know I nursed for the first time on a Jerusalem bus a few weeks ago? You would have been proud of me.

RivkA, I’m sorry we didn’t get a chemo date. But I’m glad I had the chance, grateful I had the chance, to spend this time with you; to tell you I liked reading your blog, and I like you, and I know we could have been friends. I’m glad there was something, this one thing, that I was able to do for you, to say thank you—thank you for inviting me to your party.


mother in israel said...

Thank you for sharing the story. I shared it with RivkA's breastfeeding support colleagues.

SquarePeg613 said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Tizki Le'Mitzvot.

Leah Goodman said...

wow. thank you so much for sharing this!

Rachel Inbar said...

Loved it :-)

OneTiredEma said...

I am crying--sort of out of happiness. I feel so stupid that I forget you're right above SZ. I would have called you...instead I was frantically tweeting 1 hr before shabbat (into a pre-Shabbat void), hoping that someone, anyone was available to do this.

But wow, the message got to the right hands anyway, despite my complete dropping of the ball. Thanks for a beautiful description of this kind of chesed shel emet.

Robin said...

What a touching story, thank you so much for sharing it.

Robin (a breastfeeding support colleague of RivkA's and a fellow blogger, and let me please also give you a personal invitation to come out of lurkdom more, there's always an extra seat around the virtual blogging table (err, island) and a hot cup of coffee for a new friend. Grab one of each, kick off your shoes, and make yourself at home.)

My photography is available for purchase - visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

projgen said...

I also thank you for sharing this. I met RivkA once, where we bonded over, of all things, respective Burger King experiences.

What a beautiful experience to have.