April 5, 2013

Two New Heroes

Sometimes life arrives in ‘themes.’ These are events or circumstances that may seem random but are indeed related as they deliver a distinct message. This week, ‘courage’ was the operating word.

On Tuesday morning, I opened my email and read the most amazing story written by a friend who delivers organic fruits, vegetables and farm fresh eggs. She drives once a week to the Shomron to pick up produce from various farmers and has become quite close to the families who live there. Many of them are Israel’s frontier people. They live very simple, rural lives. Many families live in caravans and many of them are farmers. Their spirit reminds me of the pioneers who settled North America’s ‘New World’ some 200 hundred years ago.

This is not the pastoral, peaceful life that many farmers in other countries enjoy. These people dream of the day when they will live without fear, but until that day arrives, they till the rocky, unforgiving terrain while being surrounded by many hostile neighbors.

Last Monday night, when all of us were comfortably sitting at our Seder tables, leaning to the left while munching on matzah, ladling steaming chicken soup and singing ‘Mah Nishtanah,’ a woman went into labor. This was not her first child and as a seasoned doula, birth was not a fearful process. So she put down her spoon, left her husband and children singing at the table and went to her room in her caravan. She delivered a baby boy herself, cut the umbilical cord and returned to the table to finish the Seder. Now that’s courageous on a level that most of us will never experience.

My friend went to the bris this week and shared these photos with me.

On Wednesday night, courage was back and this time I witnessed it first-hand. My husband and I had heard of a lonely man who was lying in a hospital bed nearby our town. We had never met him and decided to pay a ‘bikur cholim’ visit. When we arrived at his hospital room door, we were greeted by a smiling man with bright blue eyes. He lay in bed with a blue hospital gown and with a gentle voice, he told us a story that made my heart and soul sink.

He said he had been admitted to the hospital in November to have a large kidney stone removed. He came from Tsfat in the north and since this was a regular procedure, he expected to be away for a few days. He entered the hospital vibrant and walking. He will be returning home in a wheel chair. Something with the epidural went terribly wrong and we woke up from the surgery paralyzed from the waist down.

We were shocked. Incensed. And then he told us the story became worse. He was then moved to a rehabilitative hospital to learn how to live as a paraplegic. Fairly new to Israel, he had recently moved to Tsfat and knew few people. He was far away from his home in the US and so he spent most of his time in his hospital bed alone with his thoughts.

He then started having intense stomach pain. The doctors dismissed his complaints, saying it was normal for people in his condition. The pain became so intense, her told the doctors he was going to call the police if no one helped him. And so he was transferred by ambulance to another hospital where the shocked doctors discovered gangrene in his intestine. They did not think he would survive and was rushed into surgery.

He made it and is miraculously recovering from this surgery. We felt such sadness. And then he told us of more misfortune. He had been robbed. Helpless, alone, an invalid, he was robbed while asleep. Someone stole his cell phone, his only connection with the outside world. Lying in a hospital bed with no ability to connect with the outside world, he could not get a new phone or SIM card. And he knew no one in the area who could help. So he sat alone; alone with his thoughts, cut off from the world, side tracked from his dreams. He thought and he wrote and he adjusted to this new reality. And he worked on healing his inner pain.

We were speechless. And then he said he was robbed again. This time, while he was in the shower, someone snuck into his room, making off with his wallet. His identification, credit cards, health card and the last of his cash (bus money he had been keeping to go home) were gone. And the crook even took his Nike running shoes.

He told us this tale without tears. His tone was not bitter, but very matter-of-fact. He has accepted what has happened and simply wants the energy to go on with this new chapter in his life. He will develop upper body strength and will learn how to navigate in a wheel chair. He said he has worked on himself, journalled and drawn strength from deep places. He has spent many days and nights completely alone in this world. He simply wants to go home and be in his garden.

They told him he could go home in August and he held onto this date in his mind. Until yesterday.

When he was transferred back to the rehabilitative hospital, they discovered he had blackened bedsores that the nurses had not tended to. He could not learn to use his wheelchair yet. He would have to wait and heal yet again. Maybe September. Maybe then he can return to his home in Tsfat and sit in his garden. Here is the epitome of hope, positive thinking and courage.

Today, a woman cradles her newborn son in a caravan somewhere in the Shomron; and a man lies in a hospital bed and forges new dreams. I have two new heroes.

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