My father had energy that was larger than life. He protected us and made his presence known when he was healthy, sick and now, even after he passed away this summer.
He loved God, his family and was a diehard Cleveland Indians fan. Last year, we watched the World Series with my father every night. I hoped that Cleveland could win in his lifetime with all of us around him. I cried when they lost.
My father didn’t die suddenly. He was sick for nine years before he passed. When he was diagnosed with corticobasal degeneration (CBD), it felt like our worlds stopped. I try to understand why he was given such a long, dreadful illness.
The only thing that makes sense is that he subconsciously chose it. Not for him, because enduring this must have been torture, but for us. Every year that the disease slowly progressed was another year we didn’t depend on him as much. My mother became independent. His three adult daughters finally became adults. Now I look back and say, “Thank you, Abba.”
My father used to say, “How can people not believe in God? Look at Mother Nature around us.” As it happened, the week my father passed away, I was in picturesque Vermont with my family. I saw God in all the beautiful landscapes and in the solar eclipse that we saw on glistening Lake Champlain.
One night, my father visited me in my dream. He sporadically visited us in our dreams. In a Kabbalah class I took, we learned that souls, whether alive or deceased, communicate all the time. My father was healthy, talkative and vibrant in our dreams even though he stopped speaking in the fifth year of his disease. My rabbi said to me, “This is his way of letting you know that his soul is full of life, even though the physical vessel he is trapped in is not.” Thank you, Abba.
However, in the dream I had in Vermont, my father was sick. A wave crashed into the house we were in, and he was knocked to the floor. I rushed over to him. I felt awful that I couldn’t help. He had a look of complete calmness in his eyes and told me it was alright. He said that this was part of the plan and this is how it is supposed to be. This prompted me to ask, “Are you dead?” to which he replied, “Yes, I am.” Despite his physical appearance in my dream, he seemed at peace.
Three days later, I was taking a morning hike with my daughter when I got the call I dreaded. My father had entered the dying stage. We were by a quiet running stream when I found out. The last sight I saw before we left was this huge mountain with a blue sky between it and the clouds. He was communicating, I think, as I looked at the beauty, “This will be hard, but just keep believing in God.” Thank you, Abba.
My mother’s worst fear was being alone when my father passed. He knew that and would never do that to her. My younger sister was the first one there. She sat with him for close to nine hours. At one point, with my father, my sister thought to herself, “I can’t be the only one here.” But he waited for me to come home.
My father’s breathing was rapid and his eyes wide open. My husband and I said the viddui (final blessing). My husband told my father that he should be proud of all his girls and that he did well. My sister and I stayed on. We told my mother to go to sleep.
Alone with him, I told my father that he completed his mission here on earth to educate and enlighten people. He did that as a teacher and as a father. My sister returned, and we sat with him for a while longer and left. I came back to check on him a short time later, and then he physically left us.
Since he had prepared me for this, I calmly made the arrangements. Thank you, Abba.
I emailed my rabbi at 2 a.m. to let him know. He later told me that he doesn’t usually dream, but that at 3 a.m. he dreamt that a big wave crashed in his house and woke him up. Once he was awake, he checked his emails and saw mine. He emailed me back to provide me with much-needed comfort at 4 a.m. Thank you, Abba.
The night before shiva ended, I became angry and depressed. I drove home crying so loud that I had to stop for a second, because I had never heard myself like that. I yelled at my father. I told him that I don’t believe he would want to be where he was. I kept repeating, “There is no way you would ever want to be without us,” and that if he didn’t give me a clear sign, I would just believe that he was six feet under.
During the final hours of shiva, a rabbi that I learned with in Israel walked in. My husband must have told him that my father passed. The rabbi told me that the soul is metaphysical and that there are parts of our soul that are already in the worlds above. Perhaps part of my soul was, in fact, with my father. Maybe we aren’t separated. This was the answer I needed. Thank you, Abba.
On the way home, my navigation kept redirecting me, and I kept ignoring it. I was out of gas and wanted to go home the way I knew. But no matter what I did, it kept taking me off the highway. I ended up on Ocean Parkway, which passes all the beaches in Long Island. I looked at the miles of ocean and the sun. I cried and said out loud, “Thank you, Abba.”
Oh, and those Cleveland Indians? The first night of shiva, a gust of wind blew through the windows. Along the windowsill, we placed pictures and my father’s earthly possessions. When the wind blew, only two items knocked over: his Cleveland Indians button and his picture. Within the hour, my sister received two texts from different friends that the Cleveland Indians won 12-0 that night.
The night that the tribe started their legendary, record breaking, best record 22-game winning streak, began on the night my father passed away. With this streak, Cleveland broke almost every MLB record. On the night of the 20th win, I couldn’t find my fleece and the only jacket in sight was my father’s Cleveland Indians jacket that I wore to minyan to say Kaddish. I came home, and they won.
Thank you, Abba. We hear you loud and clear. Your energy is still larger than life.