It can be very challenging to be arranging a flight to Israel while dealing with the needs of a large family, managing a high-pressured job, and satisfying the needs of parents who are eagerly awaiting your visit.
After much consideration, my husband bought a ticket leaving Newark airport Sunday, September 7th and returning Monday night, September 15th.We marked our calendars with the dates, and although I was not looking forward to his absence, I knew it was something that had to be done.
During the month preceding the flight, my husband received numerous calls from Israel requesting that he change his scheduled flight and come sooner, since his father’s health was taking a turn for the worse. Hospitalizations for either a stroke or an infection of one kind or another caused drastic changes in his father’s ability to function. My husband needed to keep his original dates though, and on September 7th I took him to the airport and waited anxiously to see what would be.
At ninety-one years of age, my father-in-law had lived through the Holocaust. Over the years that followed, he led congregations in England, Japan and America and then, upon his retirement, had fulfilled his lifelong dream of settling in Eretz Yisrael. But because my father in law was so ill, father and son were not able to share even a single conversation during their visit together. There was one special moment when my husband felt his father respond to his voice, lift his arm, and give him a kiss he will always treasure. Most of that week, however, was spent in crisis mode.
As the only son in his family, my husband felt compelled to help his exhausted mother and sister with the burden of caring for his father. The week was filled with urgent calls to doctors, nurses, social workers and a long visit to a medical emergency facility. However, my father in law’s health continued to deteriorate. Whenever my husband found a moment to phone home, his voice was full of tension and strain.
Finally, Monday arrived and I was excited that we would be reunited again. As my husband got into the car, I noticed that he had never looked so exhausted before and I was glad that he would now have the opportunity to catch up on his rest and regain his strength.
The following day, the sad news reached us that my father-in-law had taken his last breath. I worked vigorously making arrangements for my husband and our oldest son to travel to Eretz Yisrael as soon as possible. I was worried about my husband and wondered how we would cope with getting him ready to race back to Israel, and how I would manage another week on my own. My husband was still disoriented from the previous week, the difference in time, and the news that he had just received, so I was relieved to see that our son was planning to travel back with him. On Tuesday afternoon they went racing to the airport, and I was alone again.
I was afraid that my husband’s absence would put a feeling of distance between us. However, when he called after the funeral, anxious to hear about my well being, I knew that I had been wrong. The One Above is in charge of our lives. Our relationship was only strengthened because we were forced to be apart.
I was able to plan the final day of shiva arrangements in our home, and my husband was able to see how much I cared to make it all work out well for him on his return. As tragic as the loss of life is when the angel of death strikes, we must learn to appreciate even more, the important relationships that we are able to sustain.
My husband had originally planned his trip to visit his entire family. Instead, his trip wholly entailed taking vital care of his sick father. This resulted in the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of kibud av v’eim (honoring parents) many times − more than had been planned. Both parents benefited tremendously from their son’s dedication and perseverance in response to the crisis. My husband will always be able to reflect back on the wholehearted actions he took on their behalf.
Traveling back to Eretz Yisrael the day after his return to the U.S. had shown a tremendous act of honor on behalf of his father, as our rabbi commented.
As much as we try to be in control of our destinies, we must always take a back seat to the One Above Who is really writing our calendars. May we always remember that, no matter how we feel at the moment, Hashem is sending us to the right place at the right time. May we always be worthy to be put on His schedule.