Sunday, November 20, 2005

Shabbos After Kevura

I first met them on Thursday; A young Chassdishe couple sitting side by side saying Tehillim in the waiting area. They had just brought their infant child into the ICU. The child needed surgery to correct a heart condition common in children with Down syndrome. My cell phone battery had run out and I was expecting a call from Nechama's doctor. Not wanting to leave Nechama’s bedside, I asked them if they would mind answering the phone, now charging, if it rang. They graciously accepted. It was a simple gesture, one that ordinarily no one would have given a second thought. It turned out that their child was in the bed next to Nechama. I had no idea that over the next 72 hours, a friendship would form that would last forever.

The next day, the surgeon told the parents that the surgery which had started that morning, had gone well and they simply needed to "finish up". The parents were relieved. Soon after, the doctors returned. This time they asked the parents to convene in the "Green Room." The "Green Room" is a pretty room with pretty green carpet and a comfortable green couch. The room is small but it provides access to the outside world via 2 computers with internet access. The wallpaper is shiny and elegant as is the décor which is in sharp contrast to the “old” ICU. The old ICU is rigid and metallic. Machines are beeping, IV poles everywhere you turn, nurses and doctors shuffling from one bed to the next. As a matter of fact, the “Green Room” is the nicest room in the old ICU.

As they headed for the "Green Room", a chill went down my spine. The "Green Room" is a “bad room”. Pretty,yes.Comfortable,Yes. But no one ever took you to the green room to give you good news. Good news is shared out in the open. Privacy is maintained but no effort is taken to hide the fact that the parents are being given good news. Thanks to the doctors and nurses expert skill and knowledge. But the Green Room was for bad news. I, for one, never wanted to be invited into the Green Room. Once , while taking a nap on the couch, I heard the footsteps and voice of my doctor coming from the hallway. I jumped to my feet and leaped out of the small room. I told my Doctor “I can handle anything that you have to tell me but promise me that you will never invite me into the "Green Room."

The parents emerged from the Green with blood shot eyes. The doctors looked to the floor as they left. There was a problem at the end of the surgery and without a miracle the child would die within hours; most likely within minutes. As Shabbos drew closer, and the imminence of the child's passing was growing nearer, the parents chose to go home and spend Shabbos with their other children. The grandparents would stay behind and make the arrangements.
The child lived for another 20 hours. It was unexpected. But the grandparents displayed tremendous strength during the entire time. The type of strength that can't be dismissed. The whole Shabbos they would not allow themselves to cry or be sad. Each time they felt the natural urge to feel despondent or sad, they literally fought back the tears. We spent a sobering Shabbos, we knew what the “end” would be but we didn’t know when the "end" would be. She passed away Shabbos afternoon.

Sunday was the funeral for the infant. That same day, one of their other children had given birth. A grandson was born. But neither event stopped them from calling me to see how Nechama was doing that afternoon. A few weeks later, I flew to Eretz Yisroel for Nechama's kevura, while my wife stayed home with the other children. The last thing I told my wife before Shabbos was "Remember the Golbergs (not their real name). Be strong for Shabbos. After Shabbos, my wife said that she was able to keep strong on Shabbos because of those people. Needless to say, to borrow an expression, the levee had broken for me and I had the worst Shabbos of my life.

I can't tell you the ways of Hashem but I can tell you that his chosen people are a special breed. Mi cAmcha Yisroel?! The bonds you create in the hospital are among the strongest that you will ever forge. May we only share in simchas.


Blogger torontopearl said...

I'm sitting with tears as I write this, having just read this very moving post.
Glen, it's so true--you are forged with strangers when you have commonalities, good or bad. I know of others who, due to unfortunate circumstances, met in hospital waiting rooms and hallways and lounges, and ended up "being there" for one another, with some of them "being there" a little longer than the others...

11:30 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...


12:16 PM  
Anonymous rod said...

The tears will always be there (eventually just below the surface, but instantly there). For us it's been 22+ years and could have been this morning. I wish I could be more positive -- You learn to live with the pain but it never goes away.

8:03 PM  

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My Goal is to post at least 2x per week on Sunday and Wednesday.