Some songs stick with you for life.
Songs that bring back a flood of memory, emotion and tears from that one time you heard them in a particularly memorable context.
For me, one such song is Ana Bekoach, arranged and sung by Ovadia Hamama.
As Rav Yehuda Amital z”l used to say, “You must sing a nigun again and again, for only then will it drip, drip, drip into your soul.”
We were about to begin another sort of drip, drip, drip with our 12-year-old son, Gilad.
In September 2007, just before Sukkot, a CT scan had revealed a golf-ball-size growth pressing on his small intestine. This had completely blocked the passages, causing him to lose about 15 lbs in 12 days and to vomit anything he tried to eat. It actually reached the stage where he was vomiting green bile.
We were worried. To see your little boy suffering and thinning away day by day, to sense the doctors hesitating to commit to any diagnosis and to conjure up horrific scenarios that all begin with c and end in r.
Our tension rose on Shabbat Chol Hamoed, as the team at Hadassah Har HaTzofim removed the growth, cutting away part of Gilad’s intestine in the process and reattaching the two ends (apparently, the Creator gave us some slack on our intestines – we can live just fine with a few centimeters missing).
We had a week or so to wait for the pathology results as Gilad recovered from the operation. The surgeon and other doctors had expressed optimism and we were happy to defer to their expertise. They were wrong.
The Wednesday after Sukkot, October 10, we were summoned to the Pediatric Hema-Oncology Department at Hadassah Ein Karem, where the Head of Department, Dr. Mickey Weintraub, informed us of the pathology results: Stage 3 abdominal Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
Burkitt’s, although a very aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is very curable. However, because it is very aggressive and spreads quickly, the chemo also had to be aggressive and intensive.
We had no time to lose.
First thing next day we were back there for another operation, this time to implant a Hickman Line into Gilad’s chest (a device making it easier to take blood and administer chemotherapy without constantly pricking and poking needles into him), with the first round of chemo to start on Sunday.
It had all happened very quickly, with no time to process the maelstrom of emotions swirling around in my mind. Shock, denial, disbelief, sadness, panic, worry, helplessness, depression, despair, hope, faith, determination, prayer…
Thoughts and nightmares, drip drip drippin’ on Heaven’s door.
I don’t think I ever doubted Gilad would be okay… but of course you can never be sure. Every single miniscule drop of every single chemical, with the exact dosage, has to find its way to exactly the right even-more-miniscule cell at precisely the right time. And all the drips and drops have to work together to kill off any possibility of cancerous cell replication.
However sensitive, skilled and experienced the doctors and nurses may have been, that wasn’t entirely in their hands.
But all that was still ahead of us.
Back to that Thursday night.
After the shock and the running around for bureaucracy’s sake and the operation and the family-and-friends-telling and the phone calls and the emails, I felt a burning need to get away from it all. To slow down. Solitude. Silence.
So once we were home – and my wife and kids were all talking in the lounge – I grabbed one of my other kid’s MP3s (a small red one now well out of vogue), opened the back door and, after closing it, went outside to the yard.