When our daughter and sister Pia Aviva Taragin Zobel, z”l, was about three years old and beginning to learn the alphabet, she enjoyed collecting words beginning with the letter P, like her name. Therefore, we called her “Particularly Pretty Princess Pia.” It was a fitting description. She was our darling, our ray of sunshine – sparkly, bubbly, incandescent, enchanting. That was our Pia as an adorable little girl, and that was our Pia until the very end of her all too short life.
When she passed away two weeks ago – as a 39-year-old wife and mother of seven beautiful children, ba”h – after valiantly battling cancer for five years, two other “P” words came to mind: passion and perfection.
Pia approached life with passion and enthusiasm; she never did anything halfway. She poured her heart and soul – and all her many, many talents – into every part of her life. And inevitably, the result was sheer, flawless perfection.
On the professional front, she was a brilliant electrical engineer with four patents to her name. At Qualcomm – where she was a lead developer in their digital image processing group – a team of 200 are currently putting the final touches on her cutting-edge final project, which she designed in spite of her illness. In fact, as her boss noted in his eulogy at the funeral, the cameras in almost every smartphone on the planet rely on her technology. He suggested that whenever anyone uses their phone to take a picture, they think of Pia!
Pia excelled and achieved greatness in every other aspect of her life as well.
She was active in her community of Tal Menashe, where – in spite of her extremely busy schedule – she managed to find time to serve on the mazkirut (local governing council). Her numerous accomplishments include bringing in and welcoming new families and building a brand-new playground for the local children.
She made friends – lifelong friends – wherever she went. They admired her for her wisdom and pithy, clever takes on any given situation; they were inspired by her resilience and determination. But mostly, they enjoyed her company. She always had new and creative ideas of fun things to do. Her sweet rolls – that she made for her neighbors’ pleasure and not necessarily for her own family – were always a big hit with everyone.
She shared special bonds with each of her sisters and brothers and loved hanging out with us. A couple of months ago, she came up with the idea of a sibling retreat. Her hope was that we would spend a few days together in some sort of vacation home. She was already very sick at the time, and she knew – as we all did – that the retreat would never actually happen. But that did not stop her from planning a long list of activities and elaborate menus. She even had us open a WhatsApp group to brainstorm more ideas. During shiva, we kept thinking and telling each other how much Pia would have loved this: everyone sitting around together, sharing stories and wonderful memories.
She was a wonderful, devoted daughter, and her kibbud av va’em was exemplary. When working on an innovative, groundbreaking, and highly-classified project at work, she shared the details with her father, because she knew that he would get so much pleasure and nachat. During the last days of her illness, she knew her parents wanted to be near her (as she clearly wanted them by her side), but she worried that they should have a comfortable place to stay. So she found them a luxurious bungalow a short walk from her home. “It will be nice for you. You’ll get to have a mini vacation,” she said. She was only concerned with their comfort, but all they could think about was spending time with her.
But it was as a wife and mother that she truly shone. The two focuses of her life were her beloved husband Shmulik and her amazing children.
Pia and Shmulik were partners in every sense of the word – inseparable, always looking out for and taking care of each other. The love they shared is a shining example for their children and for anyone who had the good fortune to be around them. All through her illness, Pia kept worrying how Shmulik was managing and how hard it was for him, while he did everything he could to make things more comfortable for Pia. Anything she needed or might have wanted – like iced coffee from which she would only take a few sips – he brought her immediately.
Together, Pia and Shmulik built a legacy and a home of avodat Hashem and laughter. They never stopped thinking and planning what was best for each one of their children, individually and as a whole. They made sure each child would live up to his or her full potential, while ensuring that they were happy and not falling apart in any way. Indeed, Pia was so worried about how the kids would manage after her petirah that she ordered presents for Shmulik to give them after she was gone.
Pia never complained. Although it was obvious that she was suffering, she never wanted to discuss her illness; she was too busy thinking of those around her. She would insist on spending our visits and phone calls asking how we were doing and what was going on in our lives. It was obvious that she was going to be spending Yom HaAtzmaut in a dreary hospital room, but she did not dwell on that. Instead, she wanted to hear every detail of our plans: who would be coming to our barbecues and what would we be serving? In fact, whenever we would come see her, she would tell us to go home and be with our families. She would repeatedly thank us for coming to her “party,” as if visiting her was something extraordinary.
The closest thing to a complaint was a few weeks before her petirah. Pia said that it made her “sad” that she was no longer able to solve the daily Wordle puzzle. Starting at a very young age, she enjoyed solving challenging puzzles and playing complicated, strategic board games – especially with Shmulik, her children, and the rest of her family. Pia loved life and had a great sense of humor. Her infectious smile would light up the room; she was always ready to laugh at herself and the world around her. Pia was able to see the funny side of every situation. During the shiva, a visitor told us, “I noticed that you smile whenever you say Pia’s name!” That’s actually not surprising. In spite of our overwhelming sadness and how much we miss her, it is impossible to think of Pia without smiling!
Passion and perfection. That was our Pia. She achieved and accomplished in 39 years what most of us will not ad 120.
Yehi zichrah baruch. May her memory be blessed.