Esther – An Update (Part 1)
Many of you will no doubt recall the columns that were devoted to “Esther” who had first written of her heartache and her guilt-ridden conscience back in May of last year. Gradually we learned that Esther (the name she chose to veil her real identity) was just barely facing and surviving each day in her prolonged state of wretchedness brought on by events of years back…
Esther let us in on her feelings of devastation, enormous guilt and unending sorrow over the death of a fine young man whom she believed she had “killed” with her insolent rejection. In her own words… “Twenty-three years ago I murdered a wonderful young man and haven’t had a day of true peace ever since.” (Chronicles 5-16-08)
Were that not enough of a burden to bear, she then suffered a mother’s worst nightmare when her then-husband left her and absconded with their two young sons. “They were stolen from me,” Esther wrote of her harrowing ordeal. “When my children vanished, I died a million times over the years. As a mother, my heart bleeds and cries and is torn apart.”
We cried along with Esther and this column did what little it could to lift some of the poor woman’s melancholy and to offer her hope of “…being reunited with the children you carried under your heart and whom you were so cruelly dispossessed of.” Our response to her second letter (Chronicles 8-1-08) expressed the consolation that “G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent – a kesher not easily broken.” (Chronicles 8-8-08)
Unbeknownst to Esther at the time, across the globe the column was being read by none other than one of her sons – who lost little precious time in contacting whom he had a hunch was his birth mother, whom he was separated from when he was but a toddler.
Following an emotional reunion of mother and long-lost son who, it turned out, resides in Israel with his wife and young daughter, Esther wrote to us again (Chronicles 10-31-08) – this time with her spirits somewhat uplifted. “You saved my life and brought me back not only a son but a full-fledged family! I am suddenly very aware that there is happiness and joy in the world and the tears of both keep mingling…”
Having returned from her trip abroad where she spent the Yamim Tovim with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Esther updated us: “You can imagine that over the holiday season we talked for hours on end, catching up on lost years – my son’s growing-up years in particular. At one point I asked him to let me meet his stepmother. (He calls her Ima… and me they called Ima’le!)
Happy ending, one might conclude, by any stretch of the imagination. But wait – there’s more. While her son continues to be a beacon of light to the mother he was fortunate to become newly acquainted with and for whom he displays the greatest respect and love, Esther has been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions.
“I’m really, really thinking about my son urging me to move to Israel,” Esther confided in an e-mail exchange. “I don’t have anything here…but I never thought of Israel because after all I had nothing there either. What would YOU do IF you were in my exact position?”
As she was mulling the pros and cons (were there any cons?), her tenderheartedness shone through – despite all the hardships she had suffered: “What do I do? If I go, I’ll be closer to a family I never had and I want very much to be close to. On the other hand, am I going to infringe on the adoptive mother? Will I be stepping into her territory ?”
And then – Esther’s dilemma suddenly became miniscule when the Mumbai tragedy struck. It was broadcast around the world and Esther was beside herself with grief. She cried along with Moishe’le: “I am devastated. I was watching the funerals in Israel…and watched how little Moishe is crying for his ‘Ima.’I’m still crying for the poor, wonderful souls that were torn away…”
True, Esther was one of many thousands of devastated souls, but with everything that she had been through, I worried about Esther’s fragile new beginning and dared to ask her if she still cried over “Aaron” – the man whom she had loved yet had spurned so many years ago. “NO. I do not cry any more,” she replied. “I still have a strong yearning (is that the word?) for that long ago time…and the wish that I had done things differently. But my newfound family gives me a lot of energy.” I sighed with relief; Baruch Hashem…
In the meanwhile, the subject of aliyah kept resurfacing. “I have been discussing it with my son and his wife. They call often and every conversation includes the discussion of why I should not stay and why I should come.”
Esther’s boss (“a very nice man and nice to me always…”), her employer for years now, has not only encouraged his devoted employee to “to think about it [moving to Israel] in a positive way” – he furthered her motivation by telling her that he’d give her three months pay to help her along in her new start. “I almost hugged him!” wrote Esther in another of our e-mail exchanges.
By mid-December, she finally had it down pat: She would go to Israel to be with her family for Pesach, would assess her surroundings and hopefully come away with a more definitive decision about moving there and about the where-to-settle issue.
Esther, I was discovering, was more than just softhearted. She was also considerate and very grounded in her thinking: “…Close enough to my son, I guess, but far enough not to be in their way…”
(To be continued)