It was a wintery, wet Israeli day. Chaya*, Daniel, and their two sons, Dovid and Eli, were traveling on a scenic back road in Israel. They were enjoying the beauty of Hashem’s world when suddenly, a fast-moving car from the opposite lane appeared. It skidded on the slippery road surface and smashed into their car.
Chaya, who was in her last trimester of pregnancy, and her husband, were both severely injured. Boruch Hashem, their two young sons in the back escaped physical harm, but one can imagine the psychological trauma that they underwent.
Someone called Magen Dovid Adom, and several ambulances arrived. The family was whisked off to the hospital. The speeding driver was not injured. Later, it was discovered that she was a woman whom Chaya and Daniel know from their neighborhood.
Chaya underwent an emergency C-section to deliver their baby. He was delivered alive, but had suffered major trauma to his head in the accident. Alas, after several days, he passed away. Meanwhile, both parents underwent surgery for some of their injuries. In an instant, their lives had changed forever. Their two sons were cared for by loving grandparents during their parents’ hospitalization.
Even after all of the medical procedures, both Chaya and Daniel were left with medical problems. When Chaya had recuperated somewhat, she had to learn a new profession because her previous profession was too physically taxing for her. Daniel continued in his part-time self-employment which required a lot of standing. Once, when I saw him at a wedding, I asked how he is able to work. He pulled up his pants and showed me the leg supports that he is forced to wear daily. Pain became a partner in the couple’s life. He also returned to college and received a degree.
Unfortunately, hospitals were not new to Daniel. When he was young, he had been caught up in a terrorist attack in his hometown. He had been blessed, escaping the clutches of the angel of death, but had sustained injuries.
What happened to the driver of the car who should have been traveling more slowly on the wet roads? Never before had the court faced this type of case. It was not a fetus that had died in utero due to head injuries, but an infant who had lived for a short while and then had succumbed to his injuries. The court’s decision was to imprison the reckless driver for murder.
I would imagine that the parents, who had lost their baby due to the driver’s actions, would be satisfied with the court’s decision. Justice would be served. I discovered later on that the parents had pleaded with the court not to imprison the guilty driver because she had young children at home. Such an act showed unbelievable compassion for the person who had caused their baby’s death. The court heeded the parents’ pleas and the guilty driver was sentenced to public service in lieu of imprisonment. This way, she could return home each day to her husband and family.
How can one return to “normalcy” after such a tragedy? To face the loss of a baby whom they had not had the chance to cradle in their arms is enough to undergo, but to have to deal with daily physical pain due to their injuries seems like too much to bear. Ordinary people might have crumbled under such weight. Somehow, however, Chaya and Daniel managed and are still managing to live their lives with simcha.
One year later, they amazed family and friends and held a seudat hodaya, a meal of thanksgiving, in a shul. There were many attendees, including my husband and me. I had expected the event to be somewhat solemn and sad. It was anything but. Both Chaya and Daniel were smiling. The atmosphere was upbeat. There were divrei Torah given and homemade food was served. What a positive perspective they had – have – despite their tremendous loss and emotional and physical pain.
Since then, Chaya and Daniel have been blessed with two more healthy sons. Every time I see them, they are such a shining example for me of deep emunah and how one can be b’simcha despite major life challenges. I bless them that they continue to be blessed with more healthy kinderlach, and that Hashem continues to help them find inner strength.
*Names have been changed