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04/06/2020 06:06:27 PM




Dear Eve:

Thank you for sharing your story.  It brought me to tears as I volleyed back and forth between appreciation for you and your work (and by extension, all the medical and para-medical staff) and concern for my 89-year-old mother who has been a patient at S. Nassau for three weeks. Your firsthand descriptions captured my own experiences. Hell, so spot on were you that I wonder whether you may have actually tended to her.  

I am frustrated at not being able to see my mother and having to listen to harried reports from doctors and nurses about her physical and mental deterioration.  She, too, has cried, begging me not to be angry with her as she asked me for permission to "let go". 

Since family is not allowed to visit, I tried to play the "Rabbi card".  Not the literal wallet "card" from our own Rabbi Schwartz that helps with traffic stops.  Rather, I turned to the chaplain's office and offered up my services.  Why not slip past the rules that applied to everyone else?  My "white lie" was made easier to pull off since my mother and I do not share a last name.  Still, I was willing to visit any and all the patients. My good intentions did not balance out my selfishness; it was just another side of the same coin.

I spent much of my adult lifetime preparing for this moment.  On more than one occasion I've been in the company of someone preparing to die.  I was willing to do so again, not just for my Shirley Jaslow but also for everyone else's Shirley and Beth and Brian and David. Anyone who is alone and scared deserves a friendly face and a kind word.

Still, my offer was flatly rejected by the hospital. Thinking about Hillel's famous question - "If not me then who?" I asked the chaplain:  "Perhaps someone - anyone of faith - could sit by her bedside for five minutes?"  I was told by the very lovely yet sad priest who answered the call:  "We are not allowed in, even to administer Last Rites. But I will pray for her.  I promise."

He was the first person in weeks who offered to pray for her who didn't ask me for her Hebrew name.  It felt strangely comforting.

I thanked him because I knew that his tefilah would be different than so many others who have generously kept my mother's name in their Tehillim list.  His prayers would have different lyrics and a different cadence and tone, for sure.  But what was unique about his prayer was not the fact that it would be sung in a different key but that it would carry his own grief at not being able to do more.

Eve: Trust me when I tell you that as inadequate as you may have felt being a Dermatologist in an Internist's world, you very presence and being (and training and skill) comforted patients and their families. Thank you for taking care my Shirley, and everyone else's Shirley.  


Wed, May 25 2022 24 Iyyar 5782