I put on my roller skates. The door is open. Right across the hallway, his door is open too. He is taking the key to his bicycle. It is the last day of the summer's vacation, and we plan on going to celebrate it by rolling together. It is one of the things we like to do together. After that we will sit together under the huge pine tree under my bedroom. It is our favorite spot.
It has been a wonderful summer, and the thought of him going away to his Yeshiva, far away in the south, saddens me.
"Where are you going?" I hear my mom ask.
"I'm just going around the block with my roller skates" I say "one last time, before I have to say goodbye".
"I don't feel so well, and I was hoping you would help me with your siblings" she adds "you know, supper, showers and then putting them to bed". "You can go out later" she adds.
He hears my mom and nods to me, understanding "See you later" he whispers, winking at me cheerfully with his stunning blue eyes.
"O.K." I sigh. I can drown in those eyes. "Later" I whisper back at him. "Meet me under the pine tree".
He waves goodbye and goes out. I close the door behind me. I sigh again. We had lived one across the other since I was five and he was six years old. We have known each other all our lives. I can't remember when it was that I realized the strong connection we had was love. But I can't reveal my feelings. It would be inappropriate. He is a "Yeshiva" guy, and I am an "Ulpana" girl. Our parents would not approve. Not yet. We are too young for this kind of a relationship. We just have to wait a little longer until we are old enough. I smile to myself when I remember the evening of his 15th birthday- just a week ago. I helped his sister to make a blessing's poster to hang on their door, later I went with her to buy the balloons and helped her bake the cake. I made sure he knew I poured all my love into it…
"Go, and rest" I say to my mom "I'll take care of everything".
I make a hot bubbling bath for my little sister, and then I go to the children's room to ask my brother to tidy up their room. Once I see he is picking up the toys, I go to the kitchen to prepare supper. I hum the melody of the song I heard his family sing to him when they celebrated his birthday. I love this song, such a nice melody.
I am so occupied in my thoughts, reflecting on this summer's events, that I don't pay attention to the noise coming from the hall. From the side of my eyes I see my mom coming towards me.
"Why are you up mom?" I ask. "I am taking care of everything" I say.
"Don't you hear the noise?" she asks "I think something's wrong"
It hits me at once. The noise is coming from his house. All of the sudden I hear his mother cry out his name fiercely. The world turns black and I drop the dish I am holding.
My knees are weak and I collapse on a chair. I look at my mom whose face turns white. She looks back at me "Wait here, I'll go see what happened".
"Please, God, merciful father, don't let anything happen to him" I pray quietly. "Pleas, pleas…" I feel as if a heavy weight is laid on my chest, suffocating me, and my stomach turns to lead.
After an eternity my mom comes back. I can't bare the expression on her face.
"No! No! Don't…"
"He has been hit by a car." She says to me with a quiet and serious tone. "He suffers a bad head injury. They are calling in an army chopper to fly him to 'Hadassah' hospital."
I am too frozen to say anything. I can't even cry. She strokes my hand gently, "go and say some Psalms for his health" she says. "I'll finish up with everything"
I get up mechanically from the chair, go to the living room's library and pick the first Psalms book I find. I go to my room, close the door behind me and sit next to my window.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" I whisper, tears streaming down my cheeks "I shell not fear". I hear the chopper and lift my eyes from the Psalms book. I can't see it, but I can hear it landing "hurry!" I cry out with no voice "save him…"
I look at the pine tree and my heart breaks "please God, there is so much I didn't tell him, we were supposed to meet under the pine tree later tonight. Please spare his life, save him. He is pious, gentle and good hearted" I lift my eyes to the sky "why? Why him? Why?" my tears turn into a flood and I cry somberly.
He sways between life and death for seven days. Seven days, in which I don't stop praying, asking, bagging God for mercy. I barely eat or drink. I go to school, but my friends and teachers are all transparent to me. I can only see him. All I do is pray for him, with all my heart.
On the seventh night I faint into a dreamless sleep.
"Wake up, sweetie" I hear my mom's voice. I can feel something is wrong. I keep my eyes closed, trying to draw the moment a little longer.
"Wake up" she persists "I need to tell you something very important"
For a brief moment hope arouses within me, but when I finally open my eyes I see it in her eyes. I shut my eyes again.
"Open your eyes, sweetie" she says very gently, and strokes my forehead. "You need to know"
"No. I don't. I can't" I whisper with a trembling voice.
"Look at me" she holds up my chin "He passed away last night. He gave his soul back to his creator"
I am paralyzed. I can't say a word. A lump is choking my throat. I pull down her hands and get out of my bed. I walk like a zombie to the bathroom. I lock the door behind me and collapse on the floor. I cry and cry for hours. I lose track of time. Occasionally I hear my family, and my best friends calling out my name from the other side of the door. I tell them to leave me alone. At some point I hear a familiar voice crying out my name. It hurts. Her voice is so similar to her brother's.
"You won't forgive yourself if you don't come to the funeral" she says to me "I need you to be there with me. He needs you to say goodbye" "Please open the door".
I get up from the floor, and open the door. We fall on each other's shoulders and cry.
People gather around our building, waiting for his bed to arrive from the Hospital to start the funeral. I feel like I am walking in some kind of a bad dream, waiting to wake up. I pinch myself, but to no avail. I stand by myself, under the pine tree, and then I see an army car with a few soldiers. One of them is crying. "This is the driver" I hear people say.
I look straight into his eyes "murderer!" I shout at him "murderer" my best friend comes to me and puts her arms around me. "Leave me alone" I scream "don't comfort me; you have no idea the pain I endure".
"Merciful God" I hear someone crying in the amplifier, and I see the ambulance approaching. When I see his body wrapped in a "Tallit" the world turns dark and I faint.
I wake up immediately, realizing my friend is holding me, preventing me from falling down to the ground. "Help me to my home" I say to her "I can't say goodbye"
Merciful God? I think to myself bitterly. What is so merciful about a god who cuts a young life so brutally? Father? Fathers don't leave their daughters to suffer that way.
I go to the "Shiva" and sit on the floor with his sisters. "Get up" the women berate me "it is inappropriate for you to sit with the mourners, you are not family" they say to me.
I feel a bitter laugh within me "inappropriate?" I think to myself. No one is going to tell me how to morn my love. There is no appropriate way to morn someone so young who wronged nobody. Leave me alone with your stupid religious rules. I no longer believe in them. Those rules denied me from revealing my feelings to him. And now he's dead and I'll never be able to say "I love you" to him.
Days go by, and I can't pray anymore. I feel that God had betrayed me. I prayed so much, with all my heart, promising so much, but he did not listen; he took his life anyway. As if my prayers fell on deaf ears.
When I wake up in the morning I can't say "Moda Ani…" any more. How can I thank him for bringing me back to life when I really want to die and not feel this horrible pain which is tearing me apart? I stop saying that prayer. I stop praying altogether.
I feel so angry at everybody for expecting me to find consolation in faith. I lost it the day they put my love in the ground.
A year passes. It is time for his first memorial. I wake up in the morning, and I go with his family to the cemetery. I can't bear to look in his father's eyes. During the past year he donated Psalms and prayer books in his memory, he held Torah lessons for the ascent of his soul, and I went the opposite way… I stop at the gate. His sister urges me to follow.
"I can't" I say to her. "Go ahead, I'll wait here" I just can't bring myself to see his grave. I am afraid it will take away my last picture of him. The one of him winking at me cheerfully with his stunning blue eyes whispering "See you later"
I don't want to get into trouble with my parents and teachers so I pretend that everything is alright. I go to school, do my chores, but inside I feel hollow. Something within me is dead. I realize that I did not stop believing in in God, but I am terribly angry at him for the pain he inflicted on me. I speak to no one of this, because I know no one will understand, they will only criticize me for having those heretical thoughts.
I adopt a habit of skipping Torah lessons. To avoid anyone spotting me, I hide in the school's library. I look for answers to calm the raging storm within me.
One day, when I'm sitting in the library I come across an interesting book "From You to You I Shell run" by Rivi Lipchitz. I read through the poets' poems. I feel her deep agony, the loss of faith, loss of hope. I can literally feel her agony and sorrow. It is my pain as well. I can't help the tears from filling my eyes, their warmness, and the warmness of the hope the poet finds fill my acing heart. She describes how angry she feels at God, and how she comes to realize his true mercy towards her, towards all of his children. For the first time since that awful day, my heart cracks and opens towards acceptance. I go on and on reading, crying, and thinking.
"It is time we close" I hear the librarian "wash your face, dear. If you like, you can take the book with you" she says with an understanding voice.
"Thank you" I try to smile at her "there is no need. I read the whole book". I hand her the book. I go outside of the library. I wash my face, and feel refreshed. For the first time, in the past two years I feel some kind of comfort. I don't feel so alone anymore, and I don't feel angry.
The next day I go to the rabbi's wife. I use all my willpower to overcome my embarrassment "I want to consult with you" I say.
I go to her once a week. We open books, learn and speak of faith in times of trial.
The second Memorial Day arrives. This time, I think I can bare it. I call his family and ask them to save a space for me in their car. When we approach the cemetery, his sister holds my hand. "Are you sure, you can do it?" she asks.
"Yes" I say, embracing myself to what's coming.
I walk towards his gravestone with trembling legs. I can't hold it anymore. I burst into tears. My whole body shakes. I kneel on my knees, caressing his curved name on the cold stone. I can barely breathe. I feel warm hands hugging me; his sisters are right beside me. We are all crying together. But these tears are not bitter. I feel as if this eruption of tears is purifying me, mending something within me that was broken beyond repair.
"I don't understand why you had to go, my love" I whisper "but I've come to peace with your absence" I add. "I made up my mind to be strong, and go on without you" I continue. "Farewell, my love. I'll never forget you. Farewell."