Gilly grew up in Australia. Since meeting her, I have become fascinated with all things Australian. For example, did you know that 10 of the 10 deadliest snakes in the world live in Australia? Or that the word “bastard” can be a term of endearment? Or that Australians drink more beer per capita than Germans?
And although my children have banned me from attempting to speak with an Australian accent, I am still “learning the language.” (If you really want to know what the title of this post is, just click here.)
Eh, I digress…
Gilly grew up in Australia. When she was a teenager she had a crisis of faith. She was not content with the belief system she had been brought up with and started looking for meaning in life, a set of values that would make more sense than things that she had been taught.
And that was when she met Tzion. He was an Israeli on Shlichut in Australia, and it was through him that she learned about Judaism and the rich spiritual heritage that has stood for thousands of years. After a few years of contemplation and study, she converted.
A few years later she married Tzion. They gave birth to two beautiful girls and enjoyed the life of the vibrant Jewish community of Melbourne. He was a regular at a number of shuls there. But they decided that for their lives to be complete, they had to return to the land where he was born and the spiritual homeland that she had adopted. He felt strongly that the girls should be brought up back in the Holy Land.
And so they planned their return. Her only previous trip to Israel was for their wedding. But she trusted him that it was the right place to live.
Then he got sick.
She prayed. She said Tehillim. She put together an army of supporters. When he was hospitalized, she sat with him in the hospital day after night after day after night.
Instead of an Aliyah flight, they visited Israel so that he could have an operation to remove a tumor. He had wanted to be with his family while recovering from the operation. They returned to Australia hoping that the surgery would at the very least give them more time.
But the operation, and prayers, and support from the community was not enough to cure the disease.
Tzion passed away.
Instead of an Aliyah flight, she returned to Israel to bury him on the Mount of Olives.
When she returned to Australia, to the home they had shared for thirteen years, she found it was too painful. Everything about the community reminded her too much of him.
So six months after he passed away, she picked up the girls and finally took that Aliyah flight to a foreign land that she called home.
That was about seven years ago. She learned the language, found work, and struggled to raise her girls. Alone.
It was the hardest post I ever wrote. It was when Stella was just technically still alive. I found myself asking people — who had prayed so intensely for her — I found myself asking these same people to stop praying for her life and instead pray that her suffering end. Writing that was like sticking a knife in my heart.
But what else could I do?
I could no longer live with myself sitting there while she suffered in the twilight of consciousness closer to death than life.
So I wrote the post and pressed “publish.”
It was widely shared. I got e-mails from all over the world, from people I didn’t even know.
Many people shared it on their Facebook pages. One person did so and made the comment:
“Yarden has a unique and terrible request. Please read, and you will cry as I have just done.”
It may have been that caption that intrigued Gilly enough to click on the post and read it. She did not know anything about me at the time. But she read it and, she told me later, and it really struck home.
She sent an e-mail:
I have been reading through your blog. I would have to say that this is the first time since my husband passed away that I feel like I am reading what I wrote on my personal computer…
I would write about things like observing an ant walking along the path outside the hospital. I would make sure not to step on it. Then I would think to myself that the ant is gong to live longer than my husband. Why? How could its purpose in life be more important than that of my husband? He has two girls and a wife that need him…
I remember the days and nights in the hospital blending into one, staff would come and go. They would take their holidays, and the next thing I knew they were back…
I remember thinking the same way as you.
How could I live the rest of my life without him?
There was so much darkness in front of me.
However, I had no choice. I remember about a month after I got back to Australia from burying my husband on Har Zeitim, I took the girls to the beach. I sat there and found myself thinking, the war is over.
There was nothing else to be done but to start taking care of myself and the girls.
I wish the suffering ends for you all, and wish you a lot of health, happiness, and wisdom to go through whatever else is heading your way….
I read that e-mail a few times. I wondered who this person was and what prompted her to e-mail me. I did not respond at first. But I knew what she was talking about. I remember watching a fly buzz around the room during the shiva and asking G-d why the fly should live and not Stella.
She believed she had made mistakes in trying to cope with their loss (and after all, there is no guidebook that tells you exactly what to do.) In hindsight, she thought there were things she could have done better. But she couldn’t go back in time and change anything for herself.
But maybe there was some way she could help me deal with the trauma. So she reached out.
Every time she e-mailed me her words rang true. She knew exactly how I was feeling because she had been there and done that. She wrote and spoke with experience, trying to guide me back to life.
At the beginning, there was no thought of a relationship. She had been dating someone for awhile. She told her daughters that she felt an obligation to try and help someone who was as lost as she had been when Tzion passed away.
And her words did indeed help. After communicating with her in hundreds of e-mails and hours of phone calls, I knew that she was the “real deal.”
Or as they say in the land Down Under, the “Fair Dinkum.”