Life after tragedy

Maggie Lakrif lost her husband in a helicopter crash during Israel Air Force training.

Maggie Lakrif 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Maggie Lakrif 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s around noon on Monday, Love Day (Tu Be’av, 15 Av); I’m in my 14th week of pregnancy. I spoke with Nir earlier, in the morning, and at 12 p.m., before the flight, he called to wish me a happy Love Day, to say that he’s thinking about me and about the baby from afar, from distant Romania. It’s a week and two days since he left for a training exercise there, and the longing for him is already unbearable.
My insides turn upside down... there is a strong sense that something not good is happening. I leave the office early. I wander about at home like a sleepwalker, for no reason, and am feeling very strange fetal movements at a very early stage. I feel that something big is going to happen, not imagining the terrible catastrophe that is about to take place.
At 7:02 p.m., the ground caves in under my feet – I hear steps on the path to our home, at the base, and I understand what they’re going to tell me.
I waited a whole week for him: From the moment they told me, another four nerve-racking days went by until the final identification.
Announcements arrived nonstop, with a different officer coming in every few hours to update me as to the progress of the recovery operation from that terrible mountain that took Nir from me. The final announcement wasn’t long in coming.
Throughout that time, I forbade anyone to cry anywhere near me; I barely functioned, on “automatic” mode, the tears erupting anew every few moments, refusing to believe, not managing to contain what was going on around me, not understanding where my home had disappeared to, why it was full of people, family, friends, army personnel. Until I saw the casket on the day of the funeral, I didn’t really understand. I can’t forget the sight and smell of fresh wood.
Since then, life has been unlike anything that’s familiar. Everything is divided into before and after. In the very first days after the disaster, I already decided that I would choose life. That is what my Nir expects of me – to choose life and to raise our baby girl without him in the way that he bequeathed to me, in the way that he commanded me through his death, through his path. More than anything else, Nir loved this country. He was a man of principles, a commander and officer with all his heart and soul. He was crazy about the army, hiked the trails of this country at every opportunity that arose, and swore to protect it at any cost – even at the cost of his life.
Nir didn’t have a chance to find out that I was carrying a girl, a daughter that he had so longed and waited for. No thought hurts me more than the thought that has accompanied me since then – how painful it is that Nir will never experience the joy that we created together. Our little Yarin was born six months to the day after he died, at the same hour – as though conveying a message from him, from the other world – that he’s here, with us, guarding and protecting from afar.
Today I’m raising our Yarin in the North of the country. I have returned to the city of my youth, to my parents’ home – full of memories, longing, and sadness tinged with joy. The task of raising a little girl on my own is a difficult and frightening one, full of ups and downs. The attempt to raise her in the manner in which her father would have wanted isn’t easy without him; sometimes it seems impossible. But the difficulties will never cast a shadow or overcome the joy that Yarin brings to my life. Nir left me a tremendous gift: a real and tangible part of him. Yarin gives me strength to live, inspiration, joy, and a good enough reason to get up every morning and to continue with some sort of daily routine.
Since that Love Day, July 26, 2010, nothing is the same. Priorities in life changed by 180 degrees. Everything that was valuable and important before now seems trivial and unfulfilling. No happiness is complete, and it feels as though I’ve switched my life with a film about someone else, a film with a tragic, sad plot. A girl-woman of 26 is left alone, pregnant, after 10 years together with the same man.
The terrible accident in the Carpathian Mountains took what was most precious to me – my Nir. I feel great anger toward the world, for the terrible and incomprehensible outcome of that accident: Seven people, seven families, were completely destroyed. Our lives will never be the same.
Dealing with it day by day is difficult and raises a lot of fundamental questions about life and about what it means to live in the State of Israel. But the values that Nir imbued in me won’t let me set aside the pride of being Jewish and of living here. Of raising our daughter here – even without Nir. Our loved ones paid with their lives so that we could continue to live here, so that our home, our heritage and our tradition will continue to exist, despite all our enemies.
Through their deaths they commanded us to live – and, as I see it, to live in the Land of Israel.