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Flares in the Night

Batya Burd

Many of you know my story — it was all over the press in October. But I’d like to tell the story that wasn’t reported, the tale of my inner horizon. The nuances shift and change with the months, but the story line is ever-present, and I’d like to share it with you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First, the story you might know. In October, my husband Gershon and I went away for Shabbos to celebrate his 40th birthday. We booked a hotel room with an incredible sea view, and we arrived to find a cake waiting and champagne on ice. Forty is a big milestone, and we were doing a life review together.

I’ve never, ever seen Gershon so happy, so fulfilled, and so proud of himself. I said to him, “You know, you’re 40. You just finished a life. Forty is a life. It’s a beginning and an end of something… and this is it! You just finished a life.” He gave me this incredible smile and agreed.

We decided to go down to the beach, and headed to an isolated spot. I sat on the sand, and Gershon dived into the waves. Twenty minutes later, he was pulled out of the sea, close to death.

When an author writes a book, he uses foreshadowing. So, as I walk the pages of my life now, I see Hashem’s — the Author of my life — foreshadowing. Introducing me to the next pages as I go along.

When I saw my husband’s nearly lifeless body, a lot went through my mind. I felt how much my life was going to be shaken. I felt how much Bircas HaTorah, the yeshivah where my husband learned and worked, was going to be shaken. I knew that losing Gershon would tear holes in a thousand places, but above all, my experience was intensely personal. 

And then came the levayah and shivah. That’s when I saw that what happened didn’t affect me alone; it was bigger than me becoming a widow and my five children being orphaned — although that’s hard enough to comprehend. Gershon did so much chesed, supported so many needy people, without anyone knowing about it. Together, we set up westernwallprayers.org, an organization that sends talmidei chachamim to the Kosel to daven for those in need. Gershon’s passing was Klal Yisrael’s tragedy, something earthshaking for all of us. That shocked me. I had no idea how big this was going to be. 

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