Monday, November 28, 2011

Singing for a Cure

Life is so full of surprises, and today's surprise took my breath away.

While I was on the cancer ward today, I helped a woman about my age to move from the day ward to a bed. She had been sitting with us and she was overcome with the need to lie down. I felt badly for her that no one had accompanied her to her treatment, and I jumped up to help her to a bed.

Later in the day, when I was getting some tea down the hall from the day ward, I heard the most beautiful, melodious harmony. It stopped me in my tracks and I closed my eyes for a second to listen.

It was so incongruous, there in a ward with so much struggle and pain.

It was poignant, hopeful and so beautiful.

Putting down my cup for a moment, I followed the song into a room.

And there I found an entire family harmonizing and singing to their mother - the woman I had helped in the morning.

I slowly backed out of the room, relishing in the love they were so deeply exhibiting for their mother and wife, as she struggled with cancer.

Their voices continued to ring out with hope, with clarity and with companionship as I made my way back down the hall and to the day ward.

What a way to show compassion for the one you love - to show strength and faith in the recovery process and to join in unison as a family.

May their voices raise up to the heavens with a cure as they continue to comfort their mother in her time of need.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Believing in Miracles

Should you happen to see me on the street these days and to ask how I'm doing, here is my answer:

This is Rivka Frankl.

The same Rivka whose mother was told five months ago, as we sat in the oncologist's office in Jerusalem, that she had inoperable, late stage stomach cancer.

The same Rivka whose mother was told that there was really no hope - and no way out. They would work to manage the cancer and the pain, but they couldn't cure it.

This is the same Rivka whose mother has been enduring chemotherapy every three weeks and all of the side effects that come with it, trying to fight to save her life.

It's hard to believe in miracles.

It's hard to believe that a cancer patient, facing virtually no chance of having the surgery that would save her life, is now being told that the surgery is soon.

The surgery has a date, a time and a place. It's real and actually happening.

The battle isn't over; there are still many hurdles to overcome and much for Stella to endure.

But, there is a scheduled surgery that had been deemed completely unattainable and hope for a cure that was not possible.

So, if you wonder how I'm doing or if I believe in miracles, just take a look at this picture...and smile with me...and continue to pray for more miracles for Tzuriya Kochevet bat Sara.

So that Rivka will give us another one of these pictures with her mother at her side this May at her bat mitzvah...and next November during the Chodesh Irgun ceremony...and again in a decade at her wedding...and again when her own daughter starts B'nei Akiva...and beyond.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Promise of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

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Yes, I'm a broken record. Every year now, for the last three years, I've kveled during the Chodesh Irgun ceremonies for B'nei Akiva. For those of you who don't speak Israeli youth language, this is the month right after the holidays when our kids (from 4th grade and up) start their youth group activities for the year. The B'nei Akiva youth group is very active in our Yishuv (you can see my post from Yom Ha'atmaut last year for more explanations about B'nei Akiva) and we have loved watching Matan participate.

During this month, they spend almost every night out getting their club room painted and ready, doing Zionistic programs together and hanging out. Then, the Shabbat arrives when they introduce us to their finished and painted rooms, have a Kiddush for the entire Yishuv and then have a ceremony in the evening after Shabbat. That's happening right now (Josh is documenting it for us while I stay with the sleeping kids).

This year Yehuda has finally gotten to join the ranks of the initiated and we are so proud to watch him finally be part of the fun. He's been watching Matan for two years now and waiting for his opportunity - and here it is.

I get teary-eyed watching my kids fulfilling this Zionist dream and connecting to the thousands of years of Jewish heritage behind them. They are wearing these shirts of a youth group that kids wore in Warsaw before the Holocaust; that they wore in Russia, hoping that someday they would make it to the Promised Land.

They are wearing shirts of the miracle that is the State of Israel; a miracle that my own grandparents couldn't have imagined seeing come to fruition...a miracle that my children are living out each and every day on the soil that was promised to them and on the soil upon which they are building the Jewish future.

I don't know that my kids see quite so much symbolism in their activities or in their new shirts. To them it's just a chance to be part of the hang out with their friends and to have fun.

But to us? Oh to us, it's so very much more.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One for the Mantel

Looking at this recent picture of my father with my boys, my first reaction made me giggle. "Wow!" I thought to myself, "There are really a lot of them!"

In my daily life, I don't sit back often to reflect on where I am, or where I've come from. As I believe most of us do, I simply go about my daily life, making lunches, helping with homework, driving carpools and the like.

And then a picture like this gets taken, and I find it hard to believe that these guys are mine - all of them!

(We interrupt this blog for a second to be superstitious. Let's all say tu-tu-tu together and spit! I can continue...)

I think it's safe to say that neither my father nor I ever assumed that a picture of this sort would be taken. During my secular-college-student-days at UCLA, this picture wasn't on my radar.

At some point, after Josh and I had been married for awhile, I saw a picture of someone's family that stunned me. Sitting on their mantel, they had a picture that showed grandparents surrounded by their many, many children and grandchildren.

And it captivated me. I told Josh that we had to have a "mantel" picture someday, and that's been our goal ever since.

And here we are, surrounded today by these amazing many of them.

Here's a mantel picture for your fireplace, dad.

May there be many, many more such pictures as the boys grow and as they bring us little guys (and maybe even girls) of their own to include in the ever-growing picture of our lives.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Longing for a New Dawn

Words fail me at the moment...but I feel the need to capture a tiny bit of our activities tonight on paper - or on cyber paper as you will.

Yarden started his 12 hour long, one-man bike-athon tonight to raise money for families like his that have been struck by illness. He told us about his crazy idea a few weeks back - maybe a month ago - and we both understood that it would help him to redirect his energy; to have something to focus on besides cancer.

What we didn't realize at the time was how much it would come to mean to so many of us, and what it would represent. It's not easy to help a family in need; sure, the Frankls have been receiving some assistance with meals and they've had many friends drop by, call, email and show support. But there is so much more that people want to do - and they've been able to show that desire through the Longing for the Dawn Ride.

Yarden has raised 66,000 shekel so far (and counting! You can sponsor him still at 66,000 shekel. It's just amazing.

And one of our friends came up with the idea of creating awesome t-shirts and surprising Yarden with them on the night of the ride. Another friend created Yarden's website and logo for him and has been in charge of much of the behind the scenes work. Someone else had the idea to place balloons all around the yishuv before the ride so that Yarden would see them as he rode and would know that everyone was supporting him and Stella. The youth group kids were out all afternoon putting up the balloons.

And, of course, another few friends are staying up all night, driving behind Yarden, refilling his drinks as needed, protecting him on the road and more. They are facebooking updates as he moves from one location to another and even have a url where people can track his ride. (Email Josh for more information or look at Josh and Yarden's facebook pages.)

Finally, a few people asked if there could be a kick-off of sorts, and we just came back from the most beautiful and moving kick-off. The Rav spoke, then Yarden tried to speak (but was too choked up to do so) and then Yarden did a lap around the top of the yishuv with 75 children who were all riding bikes, scooters and other vehicles with him.

It was priceless.

And beautiful.

And amazingly moving.

And as Yarden rides through the night tonight, so many of us will be thinking about him and about Stella. And longing - so deeply longing - with the two of them and their beautiful family, that we should see a new dawn soon; one filled with health for Stella.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Sweet Taste of Hope

I’ve been in a diet group for quite awhile, and the leader of the group always talks about how we perceive food. Food, she explains, shouldn’t be used as a reward or as a celebratory focus.

Well, sometimes you just have to throw that advice to the wind.

Stella loves Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. She can’t eat it all the time since she is sensitive to the cold after treatment. It’s one of the luxuries in her life these days when she feels well enough to eat her favorite food.

So, yesterday, when she received dance-in-the-rain and sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs good news, I couldn’t wait to get to her house to hug her.

Unloading my groceries before going to her house, I realized that I missed it. I should have bought some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to bring to her house in celebration. Should I now turn around and go back to the grocery store, ten minutes from home, before going to see her?

Deciding I didn’t have enough time for that plan, I stopped, instead, at our local grocery store. Now, in 7 and a half years of living in Neve Daniel, I have never – not once – seen Ben & Jerry’s in our store. We just don’t sell it. So, I figured I’d pick up a second-rate ice cream and that she would appreciate the gesture, if not the taste.

As I ran into the store, I just knew that I would find exactly what I needed. And there, in the ice cream section was ONE – and only one – container of Ben & Jerry's. The New York Super Fudge Chunk was just sitting there, all by itself, with Stella’s name on it.

It wasn’t there on Sunday when I was in the store, and it probably won’t be restocked.

But Monday? When Stella got her news? Oh yeah, the Super Fudge Chunk was sitting tall and waiting for me to grab it.

Nothing like the sweet taste of delicious, celebratory ice cream.

And nothing in the world like the feeling of news that gives you hope.