Rebuilding My Home

by Yarden Frankl

October 1st, 2014

rebuildI’m rebuilding my home.

To be more accurate, I am doing renovations. I am not changing the basic structure of the home. The foundation was always very strong.

But our home was greatly damaged by a terrible storm. And I now have a choice.

I could do nothing and accept the way it is. It’s certainly liveable. I could continue with things the way they have been for the past 10 months.

Rebuilding is not always pleasant. There is dust and debris and noise. Decisions have to be made constantly. Every day there are strangers in your house. At times you feel that the rebuilding process will never end.

So maybe it would be easier if I didn’t make any changes.

But I can see what my home eventually will look like. It will be beautiful inside and out. We will be able to open our doors to guests from near and far and our home will once again be a warm and inviting place.

I know what to do because together with another builder, we have designed the once unimaginable home of our dreams.

Not only do I love what we can see, I know that Stella would love it too.

photo (3)Just as there were many people who were so helpful to me and my family during the storm, many friends continue to hand both of us the hammer, and the nails, and the encouragement we need to get the job done.

I know there are others who stand back. I know deep down they are wondering if I am not being hasty in my efforts. (“Should he be rebuilding so soon? Is he doing it right? Is he putting the roof on straight?”)

Many people simply do not know how to deal with those who have lost a loved one. They wonder if they are allowed to mention Stella. They worry that they might make a joke that could be insensitive. They don’t know whether to congratulate me and my efforts to rebuild…. or pity me for them.

Just as this affects me, it also affects the kids. In schools, when a child’s parent is sick, the class can pray for that person to get better. But what happens if that person dies? Should the class just stop praying and treat the child as if nothing happened? The reality for many, both children and adults, is that they feel uncomfortable speaking to the bereaved about their loss. And so they end up avoiding them.

So let me be as clear as I can be. Yes, I am rebuilding my home. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love the old one.

I LOVE SPEAKING ABOUT STELLA AND HAVING PEOPLE TALK ABOUT STELLA. You never have to pretend she didn’t exist because a reference might hurt my feelings. It’s o.k.

Yet Stella would never allow me to become stuck living and raising children in a damaged home. So I am doing the best that I can planning a new future in a rebuilt home.

And I appreciate from the bottom of my heart all who hand us those nails.

May we all merit a good year full of health and happiness as we all engage in our own personal renovations.

Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel

 

Alive

by Yarden Frankl

September 19th, 2014

I’m alive.

It may seem obvious. As obvious as the fact that anyone reading this shares my condition.

But it’s not.

To be alive is to be more than simply a creature that eats, sleeps, and breathes. To be alive is to embrace life, knowing that our continued existence is by no means guaranteed. Not for a single day or hour.

To be alive is to not be afraid to take that extra step. To love, sing, run and take advantage of all of life’s possibilities.

Last night/this morning I joined friends and hundreds or runners from all over Israel as we ran through the night in the Judean hills. To me and many of my friends, it was not about competing. It was about running up mountains and down valleys, through forests and along paths. Running in the heat of the afternoon and the cold of the middle of the night. Running for hours, together as we shared stories of what was going on in our lives.

You see other runners who you have never met and give each other that special nod of the head that acknowledges common insanity. You put together prayer groups out in the fields while you take a pause in between runs.

It’s not an easy thing at all, but that’s precisely what makes it special. Ironically, the more pain that we experience, the more that we appreciate everything else in life.

I remembered one of trails we ran along as the spot where last year I fell and wanted the ground to swallow me up. As hard as the run was back then, it was much better than the reality I faced on a constant basis. The days leading up to Rosh Hashana were a blur, as were the holidays. Chag Sameach? (Happy Holidays?) No, we weren’t even close.

But now things are different. As I continue to run through life, I choose to go where there is a sense of adventure. Where I can feel my heart beat and look around each corner with wonderment and awe.

And as I continue running and living, I do so with complete faith that I have someone in heaven looking down on me and cheering me on.

And someone here on earth too.

Shana Tova. May everyone have a happy year, full of health, good news, and as many adventures as possible.

photo (1)

-Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel

 

Fear

by Yarden Frankl

July 8th, 2014

Fear is a natural instinct. It can be entirely justified.

Or it can be irrational.

And whether it is warranted or not, it is incredibly destructive.

Why do we use the term “terrorist” to describe those who kill innocent people for some crazed political agenda? Why not “political killers” or  ”Agenda-driven murderers?”

Because their actions may only physically effect a few, but emotionaly they can impact millions. Their goal is quite simply, to terrify. And when we allow ourselves to be terrified, we become the unwitting agents of the terrorists, teaching our children to be afraid.

Yes, Israel was subject to rocket attacks.

And as usual, they were horribly ineffective and failed to cause actual damage and injuries on a wide-scale.

And what if they had? Come on, really bad things do happen. It’s part of life and most of us cannot control it.

If I were Prime Minister or the Chief of Staff of the IDF, maybe I could make a difference. Maybe I could control the situation.

Maybe.

But I’m not. So my choice is either to run around in terror and traumatize my children, or simply to continue living, praying, and worrying more about what to make for dinner rather than whether there will be another rocket attack somewhere in Israel.

Might sound cold, but I think it is a better message to give our children.

If you need to lose it, and that might be the case, perhaps you should do so when the kids are not around.

If they are afraid let them talk it out. They may need to express their fears.

But don’t encourage fear that may not exist in them.

Show them fear and they will be afraid. But show them strength, and they will be strong. At least where I live in Gush Etzion, there is no need to cower in a bomb shelter while furiously Facebooking one’s panic.

Over the past 3 years, I had to lose it many times. And I was dealing with a much bigger threat to my family than any unguided chunk of metal thrown into the sky. But to do so in front of the kids would have made their hard lives even harder. So I would wait (when I could) for a time I was alone to lose it.

And then I would find it. And go back to my kids and try to teach them that I would be there for them.

Ultimately, fear in our case was justified. But had we completely given in to it, we would have lost even more.

Don’t let these jackasses in Gaza win. We are the nation of Israel and we will not give in to terror.

 

The Fair Dinkum

by Yarden Frankl

June 2nd, 2014

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:

Dear Yarden,

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.”

———-

To be continued…..

Coffee

by Yarden Frankl

May 30th, 2014

We started speaking every night.

It was such a relief just to be able to talk to someone about how the day went.

And also to listen.

It had been a few years since her husband passed, but the scars never really go away she told me. You just learn to live with them.

We spoke about many, many things.

Cancer, running, hospitals, mourning, faith, food, friends.

Children and parents.

Dogs and cats.

She told me what it was like to grow up in Australia.

I told her about crazy days at Colgate.

And drinking coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

One night, or maybe it was in the wee hours of the morning, I suggested something.

“You know, it’s a little weird. For weeks and weeks we have spoken for hours and hours. Yet we have never met. I don’t really know what you look like. Maybe we should get together for some coffee.”

“Are you sure you are ready for that?”

“Ready? What do you mean? I’ve been drinking coffee for years. I mean I am NOT suggesting we go on a date. Nothing like that. Just coffee.”

“O.K.”

“Really, it’s wouldn’t be a date. I will wear a sweatshirt and old jeans.”

“O.K.”

“I won’t bathe. I may even forget how to speak English.”

“It’s OK. No worries.”

We decided to meet halfway between Neve Daniel and Bet Shemesh.

When I first drove up, I felt utterly ridiculous.

I mean, despite my declaration that I was not in any way, shape, or form, going on a date, I had to admit, I was a single guy about to sit with a single woman.

And honestly, that thought was pretty scary.

We had had great conversations on the phone. And even great e-mails. I was sure that her looks would match her cool Aussie accent. But what if she took one look at me and fled? Hmm… Good thing I really had taken a shower. But maybe I should have tried to do one more run that morning.

How was my breath? Yikes! I need breath mints, where are the damn breath mints? I’m crawling on the floor of the car looking for a stick of gum or something.

I found myself looking in the rear view mirror of the parked car at all different angles.

What the hell! Did I suddenly revert to 18?

It was very scary. I mean would we still be able to have our ultra-marathon phone calls until 2 AM once she saw what I looked like? I guess I would know if she drove up, met me, and then remembered that she had forgotten to feed the cat.

OK, now I was damn nervous. I almost drove away before she got there.

I looked at the sky and thought of Stella and what she would think.

And I knew she would be very disappointed if I drove away and left this lady alone. That would be rude and not what Stella would expect of me. (It is a very good thing having your own guardian angel with you at all times.)

So I waited. And when she drove up I recognized her immediatly.

And I became a little less nervous.

We sat and I was about to order coffee. She suggested I try tea with nana (mint.) Why not, I thought. Maybe it IS time for something new. Something different.

We drank our tea.

And we talked.

And talked.

Of cats and dogs, and Australia and Colgate, and cancer, and running, dying and living, and everything else under the sun.

And when we finished our drinks, I asked if we could meet again.

And she said yes, she would like that.

And so I drove home.

And when I looked in the rearview mirror, I found myself smiling for the first time in what felt like years.

——

To be continued……