My Soul Mate is gone
by Joseph Pfefer
(Kansas City Missouri)
July 1st of this year, I lost my wife, Jan, to that insidious disease, cancer. This coming July 28th would be the 30th anniversary of our 1st date - yeah, she remembered ALL of the dates! I have completed sitting Shiva and am now in Shloshim - the 30-days of mourning. I don't know if I will say Kaddish for the 11-months or not; as only for a parent, not a spouse I am supposed to do so - I may do so anyway as long as I am able. It just hurts so much! I thought I had chosen the smartest and brightest physicians and yet, they had no idea what was going on until close to the end. The cancer had spread and they were clueless!
Believe it or not, there were some amazing things occurring during the hospital stay....
There is this horrible hole I am in and am trying to crawl out of. However, I wanted to put on "paper" some of the amazing things that over the last several weeks have occurred.
Three Friday nights ago, I received a phone call from Rabbi Mendy of Chabad House (where we usually went for service) that I was to come to his house (along with the other 25-30 people they always had) for Shabbas (Sabbath). I declined and told him I would "make Shabbas" at the Hospital. He then told me he would "bring Shabbas to me".
About 18:20 hours, I grabbed brother-in-law Steve and headed to the Hospital's dining room, as Rabbi Mendy had not shown up (he is so busy, probably got tied up) and if I did not get food there could be two people in the Hospital from the Pfefer clan.
There were in the cafeteria 4-Kosher Subway box lunches left. For some unknown reason, I purchased 3-of them. There was absolutely no reason for it, but I did so. As I was consuming the delightful sandwich, Rabbi Mendy, in a blur, showed up. We exchanged pleasantries, and again in a blur he was gone.
About 2-minutes later a young man and his mother showed up and began walking towards the kitchen area. There was the look of consternation on her face as the gates had been closed and locked (they close down at 18:29:59!!!) They then walked to the vending machines and attempted to use them. The vending machines were NOT cooperating!! I got up and moseyed over to them and asked them if I could be of assistance? the Mother spoke that she was diabetic (I can relate to that) and her blood sugar was dropping and she would be in trouble if she did not get something. I explained to them that an Angel had just brought me a Sabbath meal and I now had more than I could ever consume. Would 2-turkey breast sandwiches work? They looked at me as if I came from heaven! Walking back to the table the young man started to bring out his billfold and inquire "how much is it??" I waved him off and told them "don't worry about it". They did notice my Kipa (skull cap) but did not say anything.
Part of the tradition my People has, is the women bring in the Sabbath each Friday night by lighting candles (one if not married, two candles if she is married). Obviously, in the Hospital setting, it was not possible. However, Rabbi Mendy brought 2-LED battery operated candles. If you know ANYTHING about Jan, she is NOT technically inclined. Yet, when I presented her with the 2-candles, within 10-seconds, she had them illuminated and was saying the prayers to welcome in the Sabbath Queen.
Saturday night around midnight, I asked the Nurse (Jill) to get the meal Rabbi Mendy brought from the refrigerator. There was matzo ball chicken soup. I was not in the mood and after a second, took it down to the ICU unit. I wrote a note on it "for Dr Birnbaum". She was the kidney physician. We got to talking (jokingly about whether the dress of the day was from Talbots or J Jill) and found out: 1) She had no living relatives in KC 2) She could not find any good matzo ball soup since Irv's Market had closed down.
After I was done with the salad & fish, I had one of the two chicken drum sticks and there was still a thigh left as well. I was FULL. I asked the Nurse (Jill) if she liked chicken. It quickly disappeared to the galley!
Someone had to stay with Jan as about every 10 to 20 minutes she would take off her oxygen mask as it was irritating her. As her husband, it was my duty to be sure she was taken care of (that is part of the Ketubah or Jewish Marriage Contract). So, to ensure all was OK, I stayed and kept putting the oxygen mask back on every time she would remove it...
At about 01:12 the lights came on in the room!!! The guy standing over Jan wanted to know if I was her husband and if I wanted "extreme measures" taken!! I WAS IN TOTAL SHOCK!!
The Nurse who had caught what was going on was Jill. Jan had started shallow breathing and was drowning in CO2.
The next week was going to be HELL; nobody knew what was going on, why the blood loss continued and then, despite earlier assurances from the oncologist physician, he pronounced it was not the chemotherapy, but the cancer itself that was the deadly issue. Thursday night, my Girl was gone - her soul was with Hashem.
After Jan had passed away and was gone, I HAD to go upstairs from the ICU area and thank all the Nurses, especially Jill, for the care and respect they had shown us. Maurice, a friend, came with me.
There was an Asian Nurse on the floor and I attempted to communicate with her. I asked, "Is Jill on the floor??? You know, JILL, about this tall". She collapsed against Maurice and started sobbing. Jill had passed away while tending to a patient. It is almost like she was here long enough to help my Girl and then her mission was done here on Earth.
I received the following email from a dear friend who went to Jerusalem to be with their daughter who was in labor: (*Jan's Hebrew name is Yocheved bas Rochel- Yocheved, the daughter of Rachel).
"This past Monday morning at 4:30 am Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) time, our daughter Hadassah gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. As it was Monday, she could have been named, but as the parents were unsure of names, they waited. Thursday was another opportunity, but they still were unsure. We grandparents kept arms length from this decision, as a child's Jewish name carries great significance.
"During this period of time our dear friends Jan & Joe Pfefer were being tested by Jan's severe illness. We did not want to tell our daughter and her husband, as she was nearing giving birth.
"On Shabbos morning the baby received her name Yocheved Golda. After havdala I asked how they arrived at the name & they said - Yocheved because it was a beautiful name that just seemed right and Golda for Goldene Rydell. At that point I told them of Jan's a'h passing and they were amazed. In addition to this, we learned that Yocheved is named in the week's parsha and Yocheved's other name was Shifra which was my mother's a'h name.
"I want you to know that Yocheved Golda is a sweet & gentle baby who smiles often & is a true joy, as was your dear wife Jan. Our Yocheved will be told of all of this as she grows. Should your wonderful wife's neshama receive an aliyah & her memory be for a blessing.
Shlomo Yaacov Fisherowitz
355 S. Newport Way
Denver, CO 80224
"A Jew Who Does not Believe in Miracles is not a Realist"
~And then, I was this past week, presented with the notification that Chabad House of Kansas City was naming their pre-school after her! This is totally unbelievable!!
The miracles continue!
May her memory be for a blessing!