Friday, July 30, 2004

Friends Regained

About forty years ago, Karen went to a little Jewish summer camp near Rhinebeck New York, called Camp Eton. Her father was the camp Rabbi. A group of friends from Karen's bunk called themselves The Three Musketeers. For several summers this little group of girls were the best of friends. At night, they would sit in their bunks and talk until sunrise. As little girls do, they talked of their dreams and their hopes and they solemnly vowed to be the best and most loyal friends forever. Camp Eton folded. And as it invariably happens, Karen and her little group of Jewish Musketeers lost contact with one another as they went their separate ways. Over the years, Karen often spoke of her idyllic summers and the wonderful girlfriends she made. "I wonder what happened to them?" she has mused out loud on more than one occasion. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a Seraphic Secret reader. The author wondered if my wife was the former Karen Singer and if she once attended Camp Eton. Yes, I wrote back, that is my wife. I showed Karen the e-mail and when she saw the name of the person who wrote it, Joyce Motechin, Karen gasped, for this woman was one of the Musketeers back in Camp Eton. And why, we wondered, was Joyce (nee Siegel) reading Seraphic Secret? Our worst fears were confirmed when Karen learned that Joyce's daughter Deena died five years ago. In Joyce's descriptions of her beloved daughter Deena, we feel that we are hearing a description of Ariel. For Deena was a pious, spiritual young woman with a talent for imparting Torah; humbly and steadfastly she inspired and uplifted friends and students. She literally danced into everyone's hearts. She loved life, yet suffered horribly. Deena suffered without feeling the need to complain; she did not rage at Hashem, did not surrender to despair or hopelessness. In our cultural life, the word courage has been used so often that its true meaning has been lost and devalued. But for Deena, the word eloquently fits.
Ariel never married and this carries its own distinct sorrow. But Deena was married, for just a few short months, and though we can say: Oh, she knew the joys of marriage, there is an unbearable poignancy in losing one's life in the first blush of married life. As Joyce so eloquently writes: I've been reading your journal at Seraphic Secret and am in awe of the many incidents you tell regarding Ariel z"l and the way he faced his horrendous ordeal. Yes, I do see parallels in our children. This is where emunah, the belief and faith that we were steeped in throughout our lives, kicks in. I truly believe that Ariel and Deena are doing HaShem's work--who knows maybe even together.
Karen reads and rereads Joyce's e-mails, and we too marvel at the similarities Joyce brings to our attention.
"I can still remember Joyce's birthday," says Karen, "we were that close." It is eerie that Joyce and Karen have found each other after so many years. It is strange, and of course unbearably sad that these two childhood friends have reestablished contact, not to remember summers past, of camp and color war, and the icy chill of the lake, but to speak of beloved children who have entered the world of timelessness, the world of remembrance. What they have now binds them tighter than the warp of a carpet. Karen and Joyce were the best of childhood friends. Now, when Karen writes to Joyce, her feelings come in a flood; it seems to be the continuation of one long conversation; a narrative that was never interrupted; a loving dialogue that has been flourishing for over forty years. Karen and Joyce speak of children who are no longer flesh but spirit; these two beautiful women are once again Musketeers, best friends sitting up in their bunks, talking until the rising of the sun. The loyalty and love they vowed to each other so long ago has been honored.

7 Comments:

Blogger Rochelly's Kitchen said...

Robert,
Miri Josephovits e-mailed me this morning thanking me for turning her on to Serphic Secret. This is a very appropriate expression, because this is how we all feel.
We look forward to reading every word you so eloquently write. I wish you would not have to write about Ariel, Rochelly or Deena in the past. It would be so wonderful to read about their beautiful families that they would probably have by now and their many accomplishments in all the areas they were so great in, especially when it came to dealing with people. It's incredible how really special all these young people were. Anyone reading about them can clearly see that.
Just a little note about Reb. Frankel, Miri Josephovits, Susie Yaari, my daughter Ronit, and all the amazing ladies that really run Rochelly's Kitchen.
There is no words that can describe their devotion and hard work that they put into this Bikur Cholim. Miri organizes the Friday program, the volunteers that go to Coney Island Hospital, rain, shine, even blizzards. Now in the summer time, when a lot of the ladies are on vacation, she herself goes every Friday, unless she is away for a Simcha. Ronit and her friends run the Wednesday program, Methodist Hospital. Every year the Volunteer Department has a dinner and everyone, from the President down to the simplest person in the hospital is amazed by these "Chicken Soup Ladies". They not only deliver freshly cooked chicken soup, but their midos, the way they feed this soup to some of the disabled or old patients that cannot feed themselves is truly to be commended. Reb. Frankel, may she live and be well till 120, is truly one of the most amazing individuals that has ever lived. She is the head of Satmer Bikur Cholim and does an enormous job of taking care of every Jewish person's needs, medical and otherwise. She gets hundreds of calls, and every one of them is top priority. Without her, Rochelly's kitchen would have remained a dream, not the vibrant organization it is today. Behind the scenes, in the most modest and efficient way possible, another amazing volunteer, Susie Yaarie, dishes out this soup into thermoses in my kitchen. She has been doing this for the past eleven years, even her own Simchas did not deter her. When I have a chance I will mention all of these ladies by name, because they are all true heroes in my book as well as everyone else’s.
As far as you looking at Ariel's shoes, this has to be really painful. I was furious with my sister for taking all Rochelly's clothes and doing I don't know what with them. Her jewelry she put away to give to my grand-daughters when she feels I can handle it. I guess eleven years later she still feels that it is not the right time because I have not seen them yet. Luckily, she missed a few things. One of them is the white satin shoes Rochelly wore to Ronit's wedding. Another is a red cardigan that she wore the Shabbos she went into a comma. I cherish these things and I hid them because I don't want my sister to take them away. Every once in a while, when I allow myself the luxury to feel sorry for myself, I take them out and I touch them and I have a good cry. Like I told you, I try not to do this too often because I don't want my grand-children to have a Baby who is always sad. I want them to come to a fun house, where they know who Rochelly was, how important a part of our lives she was and she will always be.
Now I have to concentrate on Baila and Moishy's wedding. I assure you it is not easy. Rochelly practically raised Shloimy and Moishy. But, we will get through this too, just like you and Karin will, I am still not quite sure how.
With warmest wishes for a Good Shabbos,
Surie

August 6, 2004 at 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog (albeit, not in order and usually backwards) for a few weeks now. And every time I read I learn something new and how to accept God's plans. The challenges life presents us.

About your friend Joyce's daughter. I did not know her well. Deena and I had many mutual friends, and I was the one who called 911 when she had her first seizure. But that was my contact with Deena. However I got to know her husband, Brian, very well, as I dated him after Deena passed on. From him I learned about Deena, her love for life, her enthusiasm for everything, her chessed, her optimism.

As can be imagined, we were in unfamilar and uncharted territory. I was 20 years old, dating a 23 year old widower who had barely begun grieving for his lost love, at a time when his friends were bar-hopping and going on shidduch dates. I realized this the first time I visited Brian's apartment, and his wedding picture was still hanging on the fridge. He immediately realized what was making me uncomfortable, and apologized. But, he said, the picture would always be somewhere. If not on his fridge, than in a drawer, and if not in a drawer than in his heart.

We didn't work out (though Brian is now happily married), but through Brian I learned so much from Deena.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the meaning of a person's life, the lessons they imparted, do not cease simply because they have moved on to the next world. Ariel's strengths and lessons will be passed on, because they were imparted so strongly to you. And through this blog you can pass them on to everyone else. And the grieving process never ends, just changes over time.

August 19, 2004 at 1:20 AM  
Blogger jon said...

After we paid for our kids boy summer camp we found it tough to recover! I totally agree with you!

October 2, 2005 at 9:09 PM  
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