We shared a hospital room together. In the beginning, I didn’t feel comfortable engaging my roommate in conversation. She was clearly in pain and whatever I had just gone through, it was obvious that her distress was far greater even than my own.
As if through a thick fog, I took note of the frequent changing of the guards on the other side of the curtain that divided our small room in half. I would see a slight fluttering of the curtain when new family members arrived and others left after an hour or two of chatting, fluffing pillows, and reciting whispered prayers that were barely audible over the near-silent turning of pages.
My husband had left for home several hours before to put our children to bed. Now I was alone for the first time since we had rushed to the hospital when I had started bleeding the day before. As I lay in the hard hospital bed, memories of that day’s procedure as well as the horrible nausea, a side effect of the anesthesia, prevented me from sleeping despite my exhaustion.
Noticing my quiet moans, I heard my roommate on the other side of the curtain say to her mother in a low voice, “Imma’le, see if she needs anything.” It was at that moment that I became aware of the privilege that would be mine to share my hospital room and my challenge with a truly great woman.
It reminded me of something a wise woman once told me many years ago when I was newly married. She had said: “Never forget, Devorah, that within every challenge in life you can always find the good. You can always see G-d’s kindness.” When I heard my roommate’s concern, I realized how true these words were. I saw that G-d had granted me the kindness of sharing one of the darkest days of my life with a woman whose soul was so great that her own suffering did not blind her to the suffering of others. From the other side of the curtain, as she spoke with her many visitors, I heard my roommate’s constant and sincere refrain of “Thank G-d… With G-d’s help…G-d willing…” Over and over these words reverberated throughout the otherwise cold and bare hospital room. I felt her words warming me. I felt them lifting me, syllable by syllable, out of the dark place that the events of the past day had pushed me into.When visiting hours were over, I pulled aside the curtain a little bit. I introduced myself, and asked my roommate if she needed anything from the nurse’s station. She told me that her name was Bracha. “No, thank you. I have everything I need,” she assured me. She looked at me with such serenity, such kindness, that I felt the radiance of her name, which means blessing, emanating from her eyes.We started talking. Where was she from? When had she arrived at the hospital? I wondered what had brought her to the hospital that day, but I also knew that I could not ask. With the same serenity, the same gentleness, Bracha answered my unasked question. “I am 41 years old. I came to Israel from Russia when I was seven years old.” Then she paused a moment and continued: “This was my first pregnancy. My husband and I had prayed for so many years to finally become parents, but that was not what G-d, in His infinite wisdom, wanted. Hashem Ya’azor. G-d will help…”Tears came to our eyes.
Bracha and I, I realized, were nearly the same age. We had both woken up the previous morning carrying a child, and would go to sleep that night bereft. But there was one significant difference between us. I had been blessed with four healthy, beautiful children who were anxiously waiting at home for their mother’s return, while Bracha’s homecoming would be to an empty apartment.
As disappointed and heart broken as I was, I really had so much to be grateful for. So where were all my exclamations of “Thank G-d” and “G-d will help”? I decided that our similarities as well as our differences were something that I needed to give some thought to.
That night, neither Bracha nor I got much sleep. Under any other circumstances, that night would have been a nightmare: the unceasing nausea, the crippling back pain, the debilitating weakness. But being able to share our pain and discomfort transformed that night into a unique experience of kindness and friendship. Bracha and I took turns helping one another to the bathroom. When I was too weak to call the nurse, Bracha called her for me. At three in the morning, when I felt like I just could not stand it any more, Bracha reminded me, “Believe me, Devorah, G-d loves us. He loves us every bit as much as a mother loves her only child.”
In Bracha’s presence, I felt G-d’s love surrounding the both of us as clearly as I felt the hospital blanket warming my shivering body.
Close to daybreak, I finally fell asleep, and woke up the following morning free from nausea, and with some of my strength back. Soon I would be discharged. I longed to return to my home and my children in order to fill the void that this sudden miscarriage had left in its wake.
And yet a part of me craved the possibility of remaining in that small cubicle of a hospital room with the curtain pulled back. If I remained with Bracha long enough, maybe some of her unshakeable faith would rub off on me as well. This was, I knew, what I would need to guide me through the coming weeks and months tinged with sadness and loss.
Maybe some of Bracha’s faith already had rubbed off on me?
When we parted that day, Bracha and I embraced. I felt as close to her as though Bracha was a sister, and not somebody who had been a complete stranger only 24 hours before.
I do not know if I will ever see Bracha again, but she reinforced for me a lesson that I will carry with me always. She reminded me that G-d is always at my side, just beyond the curtain that divides between this world and the next. And if I want to find Him, all I need to do is pull that curtain aside ever so slightly by opening my eyes, and opening my heart.
Mrs. Devorah Yaffa Singer lives in Israel with her husband and four children. She is the originator of a new series of workshops for women called Bonei Emunah (Emunah builders). This workshop is ideally suited for individuals and small groups who want to learn how to strengthen their G-d awareness and develop practical tools to access and build upon their emunah resources for healing, spiritual empowerment, and greater joy in living. For more information, email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Chana Jenny Weisberg is the author of the newly-released book One Baby Step at a Time: Seven Secrets of Jewish Motherhood (Urim) and the creator of the popular website www.JewishMom.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.