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……

 

Stella’s Last Gift

by Yarden Frankl

May 25th, 2014

I crawled into bed and gave her a kiss goodnight. I thought she was sleeping, but she was awake.

“I need to tell you something before you go to sleep.”

“What is it? Are you feeling ok? Do you need anything?”

“No, listen. I think this is it. I don’t think I’ll wake up in the morning.”

“Don’t you say that. Not now. I’m not ready. Please hold on. Just a few more days.”

“Listen, please. It’s ok. I’m ready. But you have to listen to me. This is very important for you to hear. I want you to promise me that when I am gone, you will find someone to share your life with. I am not worried about dying. But I am worried about what will happen to you and the kids. I know you. You cannot be alone. You need to find someone.”

“No. Don’t say that. No way. I can’t imagine myself with anyone else. Don’t say these things. I’ll call the Doctor in the morning. Maybe there’s one more thing…”

“I know how you feel. I just want you to remember what I am telling you. At some point, you will remember this conversation. Now kiss me and say good-bye, just in case it happens tonight. I love you…..”

———-

I woke up one morning after the shiva. I was in pain that she was no longer with me. All the dreadful nightmares had come true in the end. But even as I felt pain at missing her, I felt a new pain.

I could not bear the idea that I was alone.

I hated getting up out of bed. I focused on the fact that I had to help the children. They had their whole lives in front of them. For them, I would live. But I hated life.

I would take the dog out by the water tower late at night and scream. I didn’t want anyone to see me. But I didn’t really care if they did. I would even put on one of Stella’s sweaters under my coat and look up at the stars and scream until I had no voice left. The dog would sit and wait for my rage to die down and we would both walk back to the house, drained.

I hated that no one, not even my closest friends could really understand how I felt. Many people tried to comfort me. But it was impossible. I felt more alone than I ever imagined could be possible. Beyond the children, what was the point of life any more?

There were times I wanted to die.

People came. People called. People sent e-mails. Everyone meant well. I could tell they were all at a loss because they didn’t really know what to say. But the truth was it didn’t matter. Words meant nothing. No one understood what it was like when you have to watch your life partner slowly and painfully dying…

But someone did.

I received an e-mail from someone who had read my blog post. And I knew instantly that she understood.

Because she had also watched her love die from this horrible disease. She knew the darkness and the cold and the feeling of being utterly alone in the world, left with the responsibility of raising children in a world that no longer had any color.

She had been in the pit and somehow had pulled herself out.

I responded and we started e-mailing back and forth. Then, at some point, I’m not really sure when, I called her on the phone.

And we started talking.

All the time.

And during the times when I crashed and was laying on the floor thinking that life was simply too hard, she was the one I would call. And her voice could pick me up and get me back on my feet again.

During the darkest times, she was the one who could open the door a crack and let some light in.

And for days and then weeks, we would speak, every night.

And very slowly. I started seeing color in the world again…..

——————

Enough for now. More on this later. It is a story that is still being written.

Dawn

by Yarden Frankl

May 22nd, 2014

Josh and I used to do a lot of all-night hikes in the desert.

At around 4:30 in the morning, one of us would always say “it is always darkest/coldest right before the dawn.”

It was both a factual observation and a bit of a joke for us.

But the truth of the matter is that once the moon sets, it can get very, very dark when out in the wilderness of the Judean desert. And despite the fact that the temperature may soar during the day, it can be downright freezing at 4:30 AM.

It is the kind of cold that gets inside you and you feel it in your bones. You rub your hands together but nothing really warms you up.

But you keep walking because you know that no matter how dark and cold it is, the sunrise is right around the corner.

And then, as you walk and some time goes by, you slowly become aware that it is not quite so dark. You start to make out the outlines of rocks and desert plants and can see the hard sand of the desert floor.

You switch off the flashlight you have strapped to your head, because you realize that you no longer need the assistance.

You are starting to see on your own.

You feel the chill disappear and the air around you becomes warmer. Often a light breeze starts blowing.

desertAs it becomes lighter, you can start to make out distant hills and magnificent vistas. The sun has not risen above the horizon yet, but the ground starts to reflect the light and gives off almost a glow. It feels like piece by piece, the night is just breaking up and being replaced by the morning sunshine.

Finally the sun peaks out from behind the mountains in the distance. You can see fully and are able to admire the vast beauty of the desert.

After walking all night, through the dark and the cold,  you start to see things you never would have noticed before. Wonderful things. Things that can only be appreciated after such a journey through the night.

And then you stop and breath in the desert air.

You look around and contemplate just how wonderful life can be when you are once again standing in the sun.