We are here forever

I felt so helpless when Elyssa could not be roused. We knew few people.

Elyssa Herman (photo credit: Courtesy)
Elyssa Herman
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Elyssa and I came as olim to Israel from the United States at the end of January last year. Elyssa was mobility handicapped.
She had been a dancer and suffered a grievous injury during a class 15 years earlier. Over the years numerous surgeries and medications left her with a miserable life of chronic severe pain. Not only did she have to give up her joy of movement, but her dream of raising a family.
Still we clung to our dream of aliya and we got here. People may remember seeing her holding tightly to my arm, valiantly trying to stay erect as we daily walked to Independence Park or along King George Street. We were in Israel beginning a new life and she didn’t want to use the walker we brought.
I felt every bit the romance of our effort together.
She tried and tried so hard until Shabbat, September 28, when I could not rouse her. She had enjoyed the holidays so much and made it through to the end of Succot just two days before. On her birthday Tuesday of the same week, we had gone to the First Station, one of her favorite places.
I felt so helpless when Elyssa could not be roused. We knew few people. Magen David Adom paramedics came immediately and tried their best for 20 minutes. The policemen who arrived were also very helpful. I was grateful for the English everyone spoke. It being Shabbat, planning for Elyssa’s transport and burial meant a delay of daylong tears. Finally after sundown I contacted our English-speaking Maccabi doctor, who like a miracle took charge with his wife and made all the arrangements. The Hevra Kadisha was so kind to me at her funeral late that evening. I cried and cried; the sadness was overwhelming.
Now it’s just me and Samantha the cat whom we brought from America and who gave so much comfort to Elyssa in the way that only a cat can. Samantha would walk with Elyssa in the apartment, looking up at her as if to ask if there was something she could do. When Elyssa lay on the couch and read, Samantha would jump up and snuggle against her painful foot like an electric blanket.
Samantha still walks around looking for Elyssa. She’s finally taken to me and now gives me much comfort.
I try my best to stay positive and active. I am committed to making a successful aliya. That’s what Elyssa would want me to do. We made aliya because we are Jewish. America is a good country, but only in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, did we want to dedicate our lives. So far, I’ve only been able to find a six-hour-a-week job teaching English to native Israelis. I can use my conversational Hebrew and that makes me feel good. My heart tells me I’ll find more work soon and make Elyssa happy.
Every week I visit Elyssa at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem.
I take the No. 54 bus to the parking lot and walk the long walk to Section 9. This gives me time to reflect amidst a magnificent view overlooking the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway toward the hills of Samaria and the Jewish and Arab towns in the distance. I stand before her site, light a candle and read kaddish. I talk to her, then sing a song I wrote for her before we were married. On her stone I had engraved, “My wife, my friend, my beauty, my dancer, my wise and sensitive soul.”
On the way back I am content, feeling that we are both here forever.
Alan Herman, who lives in Jerusalem, is a writer, editor and researcher looking for work.
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