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An Ache That Lasts Forever

C.B. Gavant

Eichah yashvah badad — Yerushalayim sits alone, bereft of her children. For some women this is deeply personal. Their children have been taken to a Better World, while they, the mothers, remain grappling with a heartbreaking reality. Three women share the experience of facing the unthinkable.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

tree heartI don’t know what it means to feel tragedy, I realized. I was married to a wonderful husband, had two beautiful young children, and life seemed to be on a smooth trajectory.

The following evening, 10 Av, I was downstairs in the kitchen with my mother-in-law, cleaning up from dinner. My husband scooped up a yawning Shalom and headed upstairs to put him to bed. “Can you check on Menachem?” I called. “He’s been sleeping for a couple of hours and he should be stirring soon.”

A few minutes later, I heard my husband’s frantic voice. “Rina, come quick! Menachem’s not breathing.”

I flew up the stairs. My husband was bent over the Pack ’n Play, where Menachem lay still. Frantically, we called Hatzolah. An ambulance arrived and whisked us away to the hospital. On the way, I watched the paramedics revive Menachem — his green stretchy with yellow ducks hung limply from his feet; his chest was naked but for cold, metal machines.

We were admitted to PICU with Menachem breathing but comatose.

Menachem, the hospital staff told us, was a SIDS baby — apart from the fact that he wasn’t. He’d resumed breathing, but extensive testing revealed that he’d been without oxygen for too long. Barring a miracle, Menachem would remain a vegetable for the rest of his life — and we had no idea how long that would be.

My parents and in-laws took turns keeping vigil at Menachem’s bedside with us. We were told that Menachem had the halachic status of a goses, a person approaching death, and we shouldn’t touch him as this could hasten the petirah. The hospital staff was respectful of our wishes. We sat and davened and cried; we watched his little body attached to the respirator, wondering what the future would bring.

On 16 Av, Menachem’s pure neshamah returned to its Maker.

 

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