Thirteen months ago, at the funeral, I said that even at the most painful moment, I felt I was the luckiest man on the planet for being Stella’s husband for so many years.
Today, after everything that has happened, I do not waver in that belief. If I had a time machine and could go back and do the last thirty years over, knowing how it would end, I wouldn’t hesitate.
I also said that when I miss Stella, all I have to do is look at my children and realize that she is alive in them. And this is also true.
We prayed for a miracle when Stella was sick. A skeptic might point out that G-d did not answer our prayers. But I don’t believe that for a second. We did have miracles as G-d kept extending Stella’s time, allowing her to share more and more days with those she loved. It was especially at this time of year — Kislev on the Jewish calender, Thanksgiving on the English one, that we felt the biggest miracles and the greatest thanks.
When it was her time, she told me. And she accepted that although her life was short, it was a full one, and she left with no regrets. Her “bucket list” had nothing to do with climbing mountains or sky diving. Her list was to simply spend time with those she loved and touch as many lives as possible with kindness and compassion.
In less than a week it will be the first Yartzheit, the day on the Jewish calendar which we will set aside as a day to reflect on Stella’s life. It is usually the 12 month anniversary, but because of the lunar cycle of the Jewish month system and the addition of an extra month, it will really be thirteen months. But that doesn’t matter. This is the day we choose to remember.
Of course that’s not really true. Not only do I think of Stella, feel her presence, and talk to Stella every day, but many others have told me that they think of her regularly also. So it is not as if we have forgotten and choose one day to try and remember. No, that’s not what (in my mind) the day will be about.
So what will I be thinking of next week?
First is how proud I am and Stella would be/is of how well the kids have done. Just 13 months after the terrible trauma of losing their mother, my kids are doing far better than just surviving. In many ways they are thriving.
Max has embraced the “mechina” (Army preparatory program) with a mixture of exuberance, enthusiasm, exhilaration, and trepidation. It reminds me of how I feel during a marathon. But this program is for ten months, not three hours. Miriam continues to excel at her school work and now is exploring her post-high school options with, what seems to me, more interest and excitement than begrudging acceptance that high school will end for her. Rivka is taking the Golan by storm and has really found a school in which she can be herself and pursue her talents. And then there is my buddy Yedidya, often coming up with wise statements far beyond his eleven years.
Yes, they are all still works in progress. All of us are. We all have our scars and, as a friend told me, we all will always suffer a form of post-traumatic stress. But every day we learn new ways to cope with those scars and try to remember the good and soften the memories of the terrible.
So the Yartzheit is partly a day to look back on our year and understand our own achievements. Because Stella would not want a whole day of sad people mourning her.
But the day really should be about her. So what will we do?
I hope, and I know that she would support this, it will be a day where we look back and remember the life — not the death — of this amazing person. I hope that we can get together and share stories of her amazing outlook on life. And what I really hope — is that everyone can learn something from her approach to life. Not as a way of memorializing her, but as a way of making our own lives better and infusing them with more meaning.
So on Tuesday, December 2, in the new shul in the new neighborhood, (after the 8:00 PM Arvit,) I will be giving a shiur (talk.) My title is “Say little, do much, and greet everyone with a cheerful face: Stella’s approach to life.” I hope you can all join us.
On Wednesday morning, at 9:00 we will visit her grave to say tehillim. Please come if you are around.
Then from 3:00, please feel free to drop by our house, share a story about Stella and a bite to eat. We’ll all be here.
Also, I am very pleased to announce that we will dedicate the new park in Stella’s memory. It’s right across the street from the house. Thank you to all who donated for this tribute. The sign is the last touch, and if it ever stops raining, it will be put up and I will put some pictures on Facebook.
Stella’s parents will not be able to make it but they want to express their continuing gratitude to everyone who continues to help the Frankl family and they will be providing some yummy refreshments as a token of their appreciation.
And I also want everyone to know how much your love and support have meant to us over the last few years. Stella told me before she died that her biggest concern was not dying, but how we would manage without her. Well, the food may not be as tasty nor the house so clean, but that’s all right. We are running strong in large part thanks to the support of family and friends.
I know that Stella is very happy and relieved at where we are today.
And where we will go tomorrow.
Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel