By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
When Eliezer went to find a wife for Yitzchak to continue the building of Klal Yisroel, he declared that the woman who would not only offer him to drink but would say, “Gam g’malecha ashkeh – I will also give your [ten] camels to drink,” she will be a worthy mate for Yitzchak. The attribute of taking notice and being concerned about a stranger’s camels is the awesome trait of a caring spirit. This was the very definition of my beloved Rebbetzin. I mentioned that recently, baruch Hashem, I had a lipoma surgically removed from my back. When one of my wife’s good friends, Mrs. Chaya Glazer, heard about it she told me, “I’m so glad. Miriam Libby, although she was so sick, used to tell me how worried she was about it.” It’s just like my wife to never have mentioned it to me since she knew I couldn’t take care of it while I was caring for her and therefore she did not want to worry me about it. But although she was so sick and wracked in pain, she still had my concerns foremost on her mind.
When her end was drawing near and the pancreatic cancer was tearing her apart, I knew how much she wanted to talk to me about remarriage. One time, I remember, she grabbed both my hands and told me passionately, “Moish, listen to me…!” But I didn’t let her continue. I told her, “Miriam Libby, I have a long-term contract with you and we’re going to beat this thing.” I never wanted her to give up hope for Chazal teach us, “Ein davar omeid bifnei harotzon – Nothing stands in the way of a strong will.” I would tell her that Rav Reuven Feinstein, shlit”a, teaches, “We don’t have to pray for miracles. We just daven for what we say every day in birchas Krias Shema: that Hashem is a Borei Refuos, He creates cures.” I would point out to her that since she started getting chemo, new treatments, new immunologies, and new parp inhibitors had already come onto the scene. And I told her that more are surely on the horizon so hang in there.
(As an aside, every caregiver should know that it is most vital to strengthen the mental state of the sick patient. It is our very first concern. In the misaberach, when we pray for the betterment of one who is ill, we say first, refuas hanefesh, the health of the spirit, and only then do we say refuas haguf, the health of the body. I’ve seen in chemo labs, the patients who gave up hope were the first to die, even when their situation was not that critical.)
To get back to my Rebbetzin, when she saw that I would absolutely not speak to her about the topic of remarriage, she spoke to my children instead. For example, she told my oldest daughter, Chani, “Totti is baruch Hashem young. He can’t be alone. He’s going to have to remarry and you better be good to her.” (Not that any of my wonderful children needed to be told this.) When my children would afterwards tell me this, it awed me how caring she was to speak about something that had to be so painful as she was preparing to separate from all of us.
As the summer approaches and many in the tristate area are preparing to go up to the Catskills for a summer break, I remember how valiantly she tried last year to go there. Although she couldn’t take the noise and having lost over 90 pounds, her frail state did not make for a rickety bungalow stay. She told everybody how desperately she wanted to go up to the country because I needed the change. On a diet of morphine, Percocet and fentanyl, she was still caring about my R&R.
Although these are very personal recollections, I share them with you with the hope that in the routine course of our daily interactions with our loved ones, we should scout-out ways that we too should manifest caring and a generosity of spirit. In that merit, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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