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I Love My Community

 

I have known for a long time that Baltimore is special. The achdus (unity), the tolerance of Jews who come from different backgrounds or make different choices, the incredible avoidance of loshon hora (gossip) have all impressed me ever since I moved here 14 years ago.

But what I did not realize was how much deep and profound kindness, true love for fellow Jews is found within our community. In large part I suppose this is because my family did not need to rely on the kindnesses of others – so while we knew Bikur Cholim and Chai Lifeline (among others) and good people existed, we did not really understand how these institutions and individuals can make all the difference for someone who needs help, who may be in a dark place and in need of ahava (love).

My personal saga started some weeks ago when my mother passed. I knew I would be spending a few days sitting shiva here in Baltimore, but I had no idea what it really meant to be a mourner sitting shiva beyond the formal technicalities. Baltimore showed me what it means to comfort the mourners: it started with Misaskim taking care of so many details and all the people who sent meals and helped with minyanim (prayer quorums). Most of all, people came and sat with me, and listened to me, and humored me. Misery shared is halved, and because, thank G-d, my mother lived a long and full life, I was able to talk about all that she accomplished and created in her lifetime. It was not a tragic shiva, but it was actually made sweet by all the people who came, sometimes multiple times, to sit and talk and listen and share. And it worked to comfort me, far beyond my expectations. People here care. And it really, truly matters. I had lost my mother, but you made sure I never felt alone.

Our lives have been a little … busy of late. While my mother was near the end of her life, one of our sons, a 16-year-old, was diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumor in his jaw. Thankfully, we live in an age where there are good solutions to these problems. The solutions are long and quite traumatic – but there are solutions. He went in for major surgery; in all, over 24 hours of surgery under general anesthetic to remove the jaw, replace it with a piece of his hip, use microsurgery to sew the blood vessels together… and then deal with all the complications.

This community was right with us every step of the way. Bikur Cholim sent meals, sometimes delivered by friends, sometimes by complete strangers. Chai Lifeline helped entertain the three younger children who were at home while their parents were switching off to ensure that one of us was always in the hospital. A friend of my son came to the hospital to read megillah for my wife so she did not have to leave the PICU. Others sat with her and me during the long surgeries, the waiting, and davening, and worrying.

People offered to help in any way they could, and it changed our entire understanding of how beautifully people in a community can love each other and support each other. Help with a minyan during shloshim with my wife in the hospital with the son in PICU? Sure! Help babysitting children so that I could even go to minyan during the shloshim? Absolutely! Meals for the family … wow. I am moved to tears as I write this, with appreciation and gratitude to each and every person who was involved, who gave.

Along the way, my son, in an entirely-unexpected side-effect, lost vision in one eye, becoming legally blind in that eye. This was discovered while he was still in the PICU, still dopey from the drugs, still valiantly trying to put a good face on the situation. The neural ophthalmologist on the case told us that because of likely damage to the optic nerve, there was a 90% chance that his vision would never improve beyond 20/500 with two huge blind spots in that eye as well.

Maybe she was right. I don’t much care. Because something miraculous happened: his eyesight started improving… the blind spots started shrinking, and the vision started improving. We credit this entirely to the prayers of the community, to a dedicated psalms group that davened for him during all of his surgeries, to all the blessings in shul, to the learning dedicated to a complete recovery.

We did not do anything medically (there was nothing to be done). But people prayed, deeply, and from their souls. Jews in our community and in the broader world (some we know, and many we do not) took time out of their own very busy lives to pray that my son should recover his sight.

So far, it has worked. We went from a 16-year-old who was told that he would be blind in one eye for the rest of his life, to a boy who is improving day by day, who is now told by another neural ophthalmologist that there is reason to be optimistic that he can recover his sight entirely. We went from a life-threatening surgery that lasted many hours with many more complications than we (or the doctors) ever expected… to a boy who is starting to go back to school, to recover his strength, and who, in the next year or so, is expected to be fully recovered.

We only made it through because of you. Because of your thoughts. Because of endless acts of kindness and consideration. Because of your prayers. Because of the institutions we have created and nurtured in this community that try to think of everything, of every way they can possibly help someone in time of need.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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There are 12 comments.

  1. Coolidge

    IWe, it was inspiring to read what a blessing your Jewish community has been for your family. If that isn’t an “argument” for religion, I don’t know what is. (I’ve been think about that recently.)

    Shalom. (That’s the only Hebrew word I know.)

    • #1
    • April 15, 2019 at 7:32 am
    • 14 likes
  2. Member

    iWe: We credit this entirely to the prayers of the community,

    I am one of the few in the world who have seen something similar, about thirty years ago. My mother belonged to a small church, the First Baptist Church in Hyannis, Massachusetts. It was a very close-knit religious community. The minister George Hawthorne was a young man with a wife and two children. People on the Cape really loved this man and his family. With good reason. When he wasn’t working with his little church community, he was helping the destitute in Hyannis. Everyone knew him as the guy who could find an apartment for this person, a doctor for that person, a caregiver for another person . . .

    The church was proud of their minister’s good works. George once gave a sermon that has stayed with me ever since: “Your faith should make your hands work.” :-) That’s the kind of guy he was. He created a big family out of the church membership. At one point, he divided the church membership into sheep and shepherds. He made my mother, the mentally ill paranoid schizophrenic in his congregation, his shepherd. :-)

    At any rate, one night he took his family to a local hotel for a night of fun and swimming (those were in the olden trustful days thirty years ago when the hotels on the Cape would open their pools during the winter to people who lived nearby). That night he dove into the pool but didn’t come back up. He was unconscious.

    They flew him up to Boston where the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. An aneurysm was likely–it was what his father had died of. It looked pretty hopeless at that point.

    It turned out to be a type of tumor that was eventually removed, and he is now fine, to the credit of the truly outstanding doctors at Mass General.

    But, and this is a big but: When news of George’s accident hit the local papers and the good people of the mid-Cape found out, there were many, many prayer services organized. Every church in Hyannis was lit up with prayer services those first three nights. People loved and admired this man. They prayed to God to let us keep him here with us a little longer, please.

    His recovery was considered a miracle by the doctors. George really shouldn’t be here on earth with us. But he is.

    Prayers work.

    I’m so glad to hear that iWe’s son will have vision in both eyes. If there’s any vision at all, you can work with it. That is a miracle and a blessing. I’m really happy for you and your family.

    • #2
    • April 15, 2019 at 8:17 am
    • 16 likes
  3. Coolidge

    MarciN (View Comment):

    iWe: We credit this entirely to the prayers of the community,

    I am one of the few in the world who have seen something similar, about thirty years ago. My mother belonged to a small church, the First Baptist Church in Hyannis, Massachusetts. It was a very close-knit religious community. The minister George Hawthorne was a young man with a wife and two children. People on the Cape really loved this man and his family. With good reason. When he wasn’t working with his little church community, he was helping the destitute in Hyannis. Everyone knew him as the guy who could find an apartment for this person, a doctor for that person, a caregiver for another person. . .

    The church was proud of their minister’s works. George once gave a sermon that has stayed with me ever since: “Your faith should make your hands work.” :-) That’s the kind of guy he was. He created a big family out of the church membership. At one point, he divided the church membership into sheep and shepherds. He made my mother, the mentally ill paranoid schizophrenic in his congregation, his shepherd. :-)

    At any rate, he took his family to a local hotel for a night of fun and swimming (those were in the olden trustful days thirty years ago when the hotels on the Cape would open their pools during the winter to people who lived nearby). One night he dove into the pool and didn’t come back up. He was unconscious.

    They flew him up to Boston where the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. An aneurysm was likely–it was what his father had died of. It looked pretty hopeless at that point.

    It turned out to be a type of tumor that was eventually removed, and he is now fine, to the credit of the truly outstanding doctors at Mass General.

    But, and this is a big but: When news of George’s accident hit the local papers and the good people of the mid-Cape found out, there were instantly massive prayer services organized. Every church in Hyannis was lit up with prayer services those first three nights. People loved and admired this man. They prayed to God to let us keep him here with us a little longer, please.

    His recovery was considered a miracle by the doctors. George really shouldn’t be here on earth with us. But he is.

    Prayers work.

    I’m so glad to hear that iWe’s son will have vision in both eyes. If there’s any vision at all, you can work with it. That is a miracle and a blessing. I’m really happy for you and your family.

     

    Marci, wonderful story of a church family at work.

     

    • #3
    • April 15, 2019 at 8:24 am
    • 3 likes
  4. Coolidge

    I am happy for you and your family – and especially your boy, who has the rest of his life to know what it is to allow others to love him without ceasing. And – happy for you to have opened yourselves to the love of strangers. You made my day. Thank you for telling such an intimate and profound story. Much strength to you as your darling boy continues to recover. 

    • #4
    • April 15, 2019 at 8:46 am
    • 10 likes
  5. Contributor

    . . . and the prayers continue . . .

    • #5
    • April 15, 2019 at 8:57 am
    • 13 likes
  6. Member

    Indeed, the prayers will continue.

    • #6
    • April 15, 2019 at 12:47 pm
    • 4 likes
  7. Member

    He watches over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps.

    Prayers for continued healing, and recovery for young iWe. Prayers for strength for you and your wife, and the rest of the family. 

    May the miracles and blessings continue.

    • #7
    • April 15, 2019 at 6:47 pm
    • 7 likes
  8. Member

    May you and your family know God’s peace in this time of mourning for the loss of your mother and concern for the health of your son. I pray your son continues to improve to full recovery.

    • #8
    • April 16, 2019 at 6:30 am
    • 6 likes
  9. Member

    I pray with all my heart that your son recuperates with little or no problems.

    One of my grandsons had his upper front teeth and the bone smashed out. It took months for the bone to grow back with some help from artificial bone material. Two years later, he has a normal looking mouth with artificial teeth that are implants.

    It may take some time, but do not give up, and assure your son that oral surgeons are miracle workers with G-d’s help.

    • #9
    • April 16, 2019 at 9:09 am
    • 2 likes
  10. Coolidge

    What a wonderful miracle to happen for you. A great prelude to Passover, a celebration of many miracles.

    • #10
    • April 16, 2019 at 2:06 pm
    • 5 likes
  11. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    I just wanted to share a cool pic. Panoramic X-Ray taken today.

    • #11
    • April 16, 2019 at 5:53 pm
    • 3 likes
  12. Member

    A useful reminder of the value of community (as well as the wonder of an Almighty who is willing to listen to us). Those of us in community sometimes take it for granted. We have people we can call or even who volunteer.

    When @frontseatcat described the experiences with Hurricane Michael, I noted how many of the early responses were from church groups – groups of people who were used to helping and cooperating. 

    I recently heard an interview with a guy (who had probably written a book and was on a book tour) who realized only after one of his children had a medical emergency how fortunate he was that there were people around him (and his wife) who were willing to take care of their other children while they dealt with the emergency (in their case, a Christian church group). 

    Occasionally I will encounter someone who is stymied by some issue because the person does not have a community to share the burden or to help provide solutions.

    • #12
    • April 17, 2019 at 6:13 am
    • 6 likes