Not Alone| March 23, 2021
As we mark one year since the pandemic changed our lives, we asked you to introduce us to your COVID heroes
At 91 years old, my father was in poor health. But despite his weakness, heart disease, and other health conditions, he continued to be the center of our universe. My mother cared for him with devotion, and we children visited often.
Then the pandemic hit, we went into lockdown, and the visits stopped. We kept in touch by phone, but the news was distressing. My father was growing weaker and weaker. Although we didn’t know it, he had contracted the dreaded virus. Three weeks after Purim, as he was wheeled out on a stretcher, I had a premonition that this would be the last time I’d see him. I whispered Tehillim as I followed the stretcher to the ambulance.
Sixteen brutal days followed. Days without any contact with my father. Days filled with phone calls to nurses that were sometimes answered. Days spent worrying about how my father was faring so far away from anything familiar. And days filled with the awful reality that we could do nothing to help.
My father’s pure neshamah returned to its Source on the third night of Chol Hamoed Pesach. On Motzaei Yom Tov, my siblings and I sat down, each of us separately, for an unusual shivah. Phone calls replaced visits. Day after day, it was just the chair, the phone, and the four walls. And the ever-present guilt that my father had died alone.
On the final evening of shivah, I received a call from the father of one of my third-grade talmidim. He told me that his kids had been playing in their backyard at the same time that his neighbor, a frum woman who is a doctor, was in her adjoining yard. She asked him how his kids were doing, and he mentioned that his son’s rebbi was sitting shivah. When she heard my name, she got very emotional. She told him that she had been present at the time of my father’s passing. As the doctors struggled to save my father’s life, she had stood at the door reciting Tehillim, continuing throughout the period of yetzias neshamah and afterward.
When I heard this, I almost fell off my shivah chair. I called the doctor, and my mother, sister, and I all spoke with this angel who had been in the right place at the right time.
She insisted that it was my father who inspired her. That would be his final zechus in This World. For us, it was the ultimate comfort. My father had not died alone, after all.
—Shimon Feigenbaum, Far Rockaway
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 854)
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