Appreciating Loved Ones

About a month ago, I called my Mom across several time zones, from Israel to Central Standard Time in Minnesota. It was morning there, and its usually a good time for her to talk. Her voice when she answered sounded a little off and I didn’t think it was just the bad reception. I asked her what wrong. “Abba had a heart attack,” she replied.

Heart disease is usually the result of poor eating habits, coupled with stress and, like many other illnesses, bad genetics. Abba had put on weight- that was for sure. He had a lot of strikes against him for a heart attack and we always told him that he would be in trouble if he didn’t watch himself. We all have accumulated bad behaviors that are difficult to change. While this was a wake-up call for my father, forcing him to alter his lifestyle, it hurt nonetheless knowing that Abba was in pain and that he spent the night alone in the hospital because his children all live far away.

Abba was lucky: the heart attack occurred while he was at work and he was in close proximity to a hospital. He’s doing better and he realizes that his health his largely in his own hands. We’re all hoping that he is able to keep up his new health regiment and that he has no further health complications.

It’s difficult to watch the aging process of a parent. I often feel helpless being so far away. It’s hearing about heart attacks and knee surgeries and falling on the ice that makes me sometimes question my decision to move across the ocean from my parents and grandparents at a time when I feel that I am needed.

What comforts me, however, is a special memory from my wedding. There is a custom that the father of the bride gives a blessing to his daughter before the chuppa. Israelis (and specifically Sfardim) do not generally have this custom, and although there were many things on which we compromised for our “mixed marriage” wedding, I knew that I wanted to include this in my ceremony. And I am so happy I did because when I look at this picture I think of my father and the sacrifices that were made for me, the long hours spent at work so that I could have things I needed, the concern for my well being and the assistance that he provided to me. I know that it was all for this moment in my life, captured in this picture, at which I would take all the strength and knowledge and skills I learned and utilize them to build a home in a Jewish country. Although I am far away, I know that I am living the life that my father wants me to live. And sometimes when my heart is broken, that thought helps it to heal.

And I hope that his heart will, too.

We are all aging and we need to accept that. We should not be depressed, rather we should appreciate the minutes and hours and days that turn into weeks and months and years. We should realize how much we love and care about each of our relatives and friends and appreciate them while we can.