D istractedly, I checked my phone’s voice mails, when my thoughts were anywhere but there. I was about to finally shut it when a painfully familiar voice jolted me out of my reverie. I stared, listening, and then listened again and again, and then pressed play again. A crackling, static filled voice filled the air. “Hi, Tzippi, this is Mrs. Rothstein. Sorry I wasn’t available yesterday. I’d love to talk to you though, so please call me back at 347-…” I shut the phone abruptly, my eyes stinging with threatening tears. I knew that number by heart. There was no need to hear it again. Especially since there was nobody to call now. Automatically, my eyes searched for the call’s date. It was exactly a week before this larger-than-life personality had departed from us so suddenly.

How could she have known to “send” me a message now when I so desperately needed it? I knew, more than felt, that she was sending me a message from Up High. Telling me she was still with me, guiding my every step.

The memories flew across my frozen mind like an old fashioned film unraveling….

*

I’d been a lonely tenth grader, slightly socially awkward, and desperately seeking to fit in. Unfortunately, I was lacking the skills to achieve that. I yearned for a person to guide me and help me in my invariably hopeless situation. Help did come, in the form of my tenth-grade mechaneches.

From the moment Mrs. Rothstein entered my life, she had been at my side. Assuring me that I was “normal” and that I wasn’t a hopeless case. She was the only one who got a true glimpse of the true me. The only person I let into my heart.

Her warm gray eyes, twinkling with good nature and promise, implored me to try yet again. Her voice, smooth as satin, rising and falling as she leaned back, her comforting hand resting on my shoulder, reassuring me that all will be well.

The introverted tenth grader transformed into a blossoming member of the respected social circle. And it was all to Mrs. Rothstein’s credit. My close-knit group of friends, the security that I now always had someone to talk to during recess, were all in her merit.

I had known for a while that she was sick, very sick. But that didn’t stop her from being the kind, vivacious, and genuinely loving figure in our school. Her official job as mechaneches was only a minor role, one of the various positions that she filled.

Despite her illness, her charismatic smile was a permanent fixture on her face, giving no indication of what was to come. And when the bomb exploded, it hit hard, spreading into every crevice and penetrating ever so deeply. It was like an electric current aimed at my heart. Shocking it to the core and burning it to a crisp. It left a deep, gaping void that refused to be filled, physically aching every time I took a breath.

“She can’t be gone!” I screamed to the bare walls. “She can’t! She simply can’t!” My voice rose in anguish, bouncing off the walls in a cruel echo. But despite my anguished cries, she was gone. Just. Like. That.

The levayah and shivah passed in a hazy blur, with me performing the menial tasks of life like an automatic robot. Not thinking and not feeling. Those were weeks of denial, self-angst, and the quintessential question of: why? Why, why, why? Why was Hashem doing this to me? To all of us? Why was Hashem doing this to her family, left alone, without their beloved captain to steer their faltering ship? (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 667)