My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.
--"Rabbit Proverb" [from Richard Adams' Watership Down]
Another one of my friends died this week.
Michelle (Daman) Wasserman z'l passed away on Monday due to complications from breast cancer which had metasticized to her liver. She died at home, just a few days after her 33rd birthday. She was wife to Ethan Wasserman and mother to Eliana and Leora, ages 3 and 5. The funeral will be held today (Thursday) in Highland Park, NJ.
Michelle and I met in 10th grade, at an NCSY shabbaton. I actually remember the very moment we met. It was a "Leadership Training Seminar" in Norwalk, Connecticut. I was hanging out in the huge social hall in Norwalk's Orthodox synagogue, when the contingent of chapter officers from West Hartford, including Michelle, arrived. I went over to the main entrance and welcomed them -- they were a newly revived chapter, and so they didn't know anyone else at the event. The West Hartford "crowd" and my group of friends from Maimonides soon became fast friends. For the rest of high school, Michelle was one of my best friends, and we exchanged letters, phone calls, and visits often. In particular I remember the great time we all had when a group of us from Boston went together for a weekend in West Hartford, and all stayed in Michelle's house, watching movies, listening to music, playing ping-pong and eating pizza in her basement, and just generally having a great time being kids. The Damans must have been very patient parents! Those were good times.
After we all finished high school, I visited Michelle a few times at Machon Gold and then at UPenn, but eventually we pretty much lost touch, especially once she started working toward her Ph.D. in psychology. I visited her once for Shabbat a few years ago, shortly before my aliyah, and was very proud of her professional accomplishments as a therapist, but once I moved to Israel we lost touch again. The only reason I even knew she was sick was that a mutual friend [actually, the wife of Efrex] kept me updated about her health. I knew the end might be coming, but I never called to say goodbye. . . .
So, it's not that Michelle and I were close, but that we used to be close. A piece of my past has disappeared. And she was so young.
I can only give my condolences to her parents, who hosted me so often for Shabbat when I was a teenager, to her brothers, and to Ethan and the girls. May they be "comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."
Baruch Dayan Ha-emet.