Friday, December 23, 2005

Blowing Kisses

According to her doctors, my beloved Omi, who is 88 and has always been the strongest person I knew, has up to a week to remain with us. Please pray for her: Rachel bat Gittl.

So much to do, if I want to go to America next week. Decision, decisions. Which day to go? How much work to do before I leave, and what to postpone until I come back? Who will guard my apartment for me? Who will take in my mail? Who can cover stories that I will miss, and which ones can I do from the States? Which editors can I reach today? Which travel agents can I reach today? Should I go to California as long as I'm there? How much money can I spend on this? Where is my winter coat? Who will take down my suitcases from my high-up storage places?

Thank God I am not hosting Shabbat meals this week and do not have to cook.

Last night I cried my eyes out until about 2 am. I am very close with my grandmother. While I was growing up, she lived about a seven minute drive away, and we visited each other often. After college, when I was living in Boston for a few years, I had dinner with her once a week. And now that I've made aliyah, I still call her about once a week or so. Ever since I was a little girl, I thought of my Omi as being old, and was always afraid she would die before I'd see her again. I have always been careful to tell her I love her every time I see her or talk to her, so I'd never regret a missed opportunity to tell her. And always, in her thick, thick Polish accent, she'd say "And I love you too. Kisses."

When my Omi's time comes to leave us, she'll be joining her mother, who died when my grandmother was 2 1/2, and her father and brothers and sisters, who were killed in the Holocaust. Omi always said that she thinks her mother has been her guardian angel, and that it's because her mother was looking out for her that she survived all the hardships she suffered in her little village in Poland, and the Holocaust, and living in post-WWII Vienna, and being widowed about 35 years ago. It's comforting to know that she'll be reunited with her mother after 85 years, and with her father, but also frightening for me. Do we really know what happens after we die? Can I really count on ever seeing Omi again, when my own time comes?

Whatever strength I have, I inherited from Omi. She went through so much, and never let the turkeys get her down. She was always ready for new adventures, never doubted her ability to make it to the next day, and always had a sweet, simple faith in God. Instead of saying "Why did God take away my family?" she always said "I am so lucky. God is so good to me. He helped me live."

About ten years ago, when she was spending her days in her little apartment watching soap operas and taking slow, daily walks to the grocery store or the butcher, she told me that this was the best time in her life. "Now, finally, when I am old, I am having a good life," she told me. "I have no responsibilities. I can take it easy. I can take a walk when I want to and rest when I want to. This is the best time in my life. I am very lucky."

My mother tells me that Omi is not in any pain, that she is peaceful and, though too weak to talk, is able to understand when people talk to her. Yesterday my mother put the phone to Omi's ear, and I told her that I love and miss her, and that I know she loves me too, even though she can't tell me so right now, because she always told me before. I said I'm sending her kisses.

After, my mother said that my Omi was smiling and blowing kisses to me.

My heart is breaking.

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