Dear Rabbi Gellman,
Today’s article in Newsday about clergy services brings up a story I want to tell you. (I faithfully read your articles and truly enjoy the insight you bring into them. I love you humor!)
My husband’s family is what we call Reformed Jewish family. He grew up in Forest Hills.
His parents lived in Rego Park, both well over 80 years old. Spring 2007 his father, Joseph had to have his pace maker replaced so we took Mother Edith, to live with us in Bethpage, L.I. She was suffering from dementia for quite a while, but we did not realize how bad her situation was until she was in the house with us 24 hours.
After the operation, Joe decided not to go back to Queens any longer but wanted to stay with us. So we made a room for them of the spare bedroom on the main floor. In June we were able to get Mom to Nursing Home. We felt she was well taken care of there where she had her own room. She of course did no longer recognize us nor did she ever ask for her husband. “I like it here, I’ve been living here for a long time.” Dad enjoyed his live with us, me, my husband and our son and his wife, as well as the visits of his granddaughter, who lives in New Jersey.
He went back to Rego Park only once. We kept the apartment just in case he wanted to return, but his life was not there any longer. He was very relieved, the burden of caring for his wife alone was gone. He looked years younger on the Island. Little by little we emptied the apartment.
End of October 2007, Dad was taken to NS/ LIJ Plainview due to problems with his colitis. My husband and I were on vacation in Finland (my home), when our son called about it. Joe had an infection, which did not heal with medication and the doctors decided not to operate. One of doctors of the operating team was Dr. P. We were told there was 1% chance of making it through. It made sense, we got a clear picture of the situation and Joe had a living will, refusing any artificial and heroic means for prolonging live. We discussed it with him. He had heart problems, the colitis and had only one kidney, which was failing. The other was removed due to cancer years ago. He was ready to close the books. We did not want to leave him “on the table”, but make the last days peaceful. November 10, 2007 he passed away, age 89, after 67 years of marriage, which we truly can say was a happy one with deep love to each other. Dad had the clearest and sharpest mind of us all. He remembered names, places, happenings of New York City where he grew up. Ask anything about the family history, he had it. He could carry any conversation about present news. His mind had years to go, but his body did not co-operate.
We got the call that Saturday while in Queens doing a major clean up, realizing, there is no return. Knowing that they were not regular worshippers at the Temple, we needed help to pick up a Rabbi to officiate at the funeral. Arthur White Funeral Home in Farmingdale said they only have one Rabbi, Rabbi Schnitzler, he will call us. I spoke with him.
“Tell me about Joseph” he said. I told all I knew.
“Did he always live on Long Island?”
“No, he was with us only 6 months, he is originally from Manhattan but lived in Queens since 1951.”
“Where in Queens?” I tell him
“What Street?” I tell him.
“What number?” I tell him.
“2M, Second floor.” I tell him.
The Rabbi lived in the same building, sixth floors. They knew each other! We had met him on the elevator a couple of times. He delivered a beautiful sermon.
October 2009 we got a call from nursing home, (while in Switzerland this time), Edith’s heart was failing, she would have maybe a few hours left. Would we allow oxygen for her? Yes. My husband called our son, who hurried to his Grandma. She was in bed barely breathing. An empty oxygen bottle connected to her. My son has first aid training (he has completed an Aircraft Rescue course, entering in to burning airplanes.) He got upset and called a nurse, who said she has no authority to do anything. “Get somebody who has!” An empty bottle! Well, it was too late, she passed away about six thirty in the morning when we were just boarding the plane. Edith, 89, was buried also in Calverton National Cemetery, to rest with Joseph. Rabbi Schnitzler officiated.
My husband and I visited him in Wetherole Street once since. We did send him a check both times, even through the Funeral Home did have a fee for it also. (As a matter of fact I will send him a card right now.)
The coincidences continued when I was diagnosed with cancer in fall 2008. The operating doctor was the same, Dr. P. We had great confidence in him. One life lost, one life saved. Life goes on.
Thank you for listening!
I trust this finds in you in good spirits, health and faith, and I will stay your faithful reader,