Love Versus God
name was Anne, too. However, Anne
along with her younger sister escaped the Nazi horror. But she lost
every other member of her family. Anne made a life in America, married,
raised four boys, and is now dying of liver cancer. I grew up next door
to her. I believe that she was perhaps the only person who was always
glad to see me. I went to see her yesterday.
twelve when my older sister
killed herself in 1969. I realized then that our two families would be
joined at the hip forever. I knew, when my parents returned from the
hospital early in the morning, that Toby was dead. I heard the call to
brother at college, the cries of utter anguish that at four a.m. would
not be stopped by the walls of our house. I heard the dead silence,
her bed. Dad came into my bedroom, as he normally would on a school
day, to wake me. I felt him sit on the bed, even though I was facing
the wall and could not see him. He would usually take my foot and
tickle me awake, but not today. I turned to face him, and saw someone
else; a man suddenly taken dumb, unable to speak. He just looked at me
for what seemed like hours rather than what were probably just seconds.
He could not say the words. I think he would have sat on my bed forever
just looking at me helplessly if I hadn’t said “Toby died, didn’t she.”
Dad was rustling the trash
cans to the curb
when I heard Mrs. Friedman yell from next door “Irving, why aren’t you
at work? Are you okay?”
never missed work.
Looking out of my window I could see the saddest man in the world just
look to her wearily and say, “Toby died.”
minutes Anne was
inside our house, the very first one outside the family that day. She
brought whatever light one could bring into a house of the deepest
darkness. As Jewish tradition requires, she covered all of the mirrors
and other reflecting surfaces in the house: Jews are to reflect on
their souls, not their faces in these times. She made sure my younger
sister and I were fed, as well as Dad.
went upstairs to
to Dottie, my mother, who twenty-seven years before had given birth to
her now lost daughter. Anne then proceeded to kickstart the practical
things a family must do when one of us dies. She was with us the whole
day, as people heard and gathered. And Anne Friedman held our hands,
metaphorically, as she ran around our house, cleaning, cooking, and
being the strength that we so sorely needed to somehow begin to steady
forty years later,
this woman cannot leave me now.
walked into the
room, I saw a frail old woman, whose faith in God allowed her to accept
the sentence but still insist that she was not ready to die. Around the
bed were her people. And a light that focused on a face in gentle
repose. Anne was not bargaining. Her eyes were calmly watching God as
he tip-toed around the room, wanting her for himself, waiting for his
time but being pushed back by the life in Anne’s eyes and the love
surrounding and protecting her.
created love. Could
it be that he created a force so strong that even he had to
now? Had God created something more powerful than himself? It is rather
simple. His children, through prayer, and Anne through her awesome
strength and love of God’s gift of life, were now unwilling to give it
back to him, just yet. Humans are the Lord’s finest achievement. And
Anne and her protectors had, I think, a question for God. Why take from
us one of your greatest creations, now, when we need her so much more
by her bed, kissed
and said “I’m still, everyday, praying for a miracle.”
hands. Her grip
strong. Indeed she squeezed so tightly that I made a face and made her
smile. A weak smile is so much more seductive than a toothy one.
Anne saying to God,
I know,” but still fighting, having a conversation with the divinity?
As much as she wanted to be in the arms of her mother and father and
the scores lost for over six decades, she wanted more time with us.
Anne always heeded God. She also needed him to come back later.
has their “time”
suppose. But sometimes it is the wrong time. God is our timekeeper. But
as he silently moved about Anne’s room, perhaps it occurred to him that
the force of love that he had made and that was now protecting Anne,
was more powerful than his timetable. For a moment I thought I saw God
fingering his watch fob and stroking his chin, considering whether
Anne’s death or her life would now be his gift to her.
other for about half an hour yesterday. She would open her eyes and
smile. Joey! Oh, Joey. We both smiled and laughed a little. There were
many in the house who wanted my chair, but I was not giving it up so
easily. God was in the house and could snatch her away at any moment.
Besides, she had my hand in her life grip. So strong, I couldn’t
release her yet.
eventually I did. I
kissed her. I said, “So long, but not goodbye.” And another came to sit
by her and take her hand.
Several times a day now, I
God. I refuse to believe he does not hear me. I know he hears me. I
know he listens. When we, the lovers of Anne Friedman, pray for her
life, we must add a codicil. The cancer inside is now killing her. So
we add to our prayer for her life, an easy passage, a short trip back
to her happiest place . . . before Hitler, before the whole world
looked to God and could not find him.
want it both ways.
want a miracle too; for God to remove the cancer and return her to us,
for a while, the healthy, happy old lady, who was entering old age free
of the silliness, doubt, and convention of youth. A 79-year-old woman
who still gave lectures on the Holocaust, who bathed in the love of her
family, and never shook her fist at God, though he once seemed lost to
her. She would love God from her last breath here to her first breath
wait. And pray.
Pray with the fervor of God’s six-day creation. Of course Anne will
die. Perhaps she has died while I write these words. What a terrible
thing it would be to live forever and never move ahead to the place of
simple peace and love. The miracle we are asking for is a selfish one.
In a world where many point to God and ask, “Who are you,” we ask for a
few more years of the loving-kindness of Anne Friedman, who never
doubted who he is.
January 30, 2009
died this morning at
3:30. It seems our prayers, our pleas, our entreaties to God were
ignored. But God doesn’t ignore prayer, so that wasn’t it. God listens,
perhaps deliberates, perhaps not, but we find that, after all, God does
not dither. Anne said that she accepted this, but was not ready. We
were not ready. But God was ready to take Anne back. And perhaps her
death was God’s most perfect act of love for Anne Friedman.
Virginia, is a former talkshow
host. He has been previously published
His most important
influence in his life and work has been his mother.