Yosef’s Wife Died, and Then He Did Too

Yosef’s Wife Died, and Then He Did Too

On the other side of my wall, there is a shiva taking place for my 84-year-old neighbor, Yosef, who passed away last week.
When we moved into our home 4 years ago, Yosef’s wife of almost 60 years was already very ill, and within a few months she had passed away. She died from a foot infection, a common and often fatal complication of diabetes.
Yosef grieved terribly after his wife died. But he was still sharp as a tack. Whenever I’d run into him I would ask which of his four awe-inspiringly dedicated children he would be spending (or, depending on the day of the week, had spent) Shabbat with. And whenever he told me that he was going to his daughter, Hagit, I would say “In Maaleh Edumim?” And Yosef, who had spent most of his life teaching grammar, would correct me: “Maaleh ADumim! ADumim, not EDumim!”
Within a year after his wife died, Yosef’s condition had visibly declined. He stopped correcting my Hebrew grammar, but not because my Hebrew was suddenly grammatically correct. One day, on my way out to run errands, I saw Yosef waiting by the sidewalk. His son from Yafe Nof was coming to pick him up, he told me. But when I got back home an hour later, Yosef was still waiting there. It turned out Yosef had gotten the day wrong.
Two years ago, on the way out to the light rail, I thought I heard a soft voice. I looked around and saw Yosef sitting on the ground by his house. Yosef told me that he had been on his way to the corner store, but had fallen and hadn’t been able to get up. He had been calling out for help for a long time, he said, but nobody had heard him. Yosef’s voice, which for decades had commanded a class of 35 Israeli high-school students, had become so weak that it was nearly inaudible.
People who knew Yosef when his wife was healthy told me how things had once been. What a lovely, lively person she had been, always ready to lend a helping hand when a neighbor or family member was in need. But now, nebach, Yosef’s wife was gone. And, in a way, Yosef was too.
Around a year and a half ago, a caretaker moved in to take care of Yosef. Yosef could no longer walk or remember much about his life.
Last week, Yosef and his children marked his late wife’s 4th yahrzeit, and two days later Yosef passed away as well. From a diabetic foot infection, just like his wife had.
Before I left for my trip last week, I made a detailed schedule so that everything and everyone would be taken care of. And, more or less (or maybe less or more) things functioned as usual while I was away.
But the day after I came home, and took Yoni to gan for the first time, his teacher told me, “Good you are back! Yoni just wasn’t the same when you were away!”
When a mother is in the home, I was reminded, she doesn’t just provide food, clean clothing, and reminders about tomorrow’s swimming class and zippering up coats. A mother, more than anything or anybody else, has the ability to transform a 4-walled structure from a house into a home. She doesn’t just nurture her family, the shiva next door has reminded me, she gives life.

5 comments

  1. that’s a very moving story. may he rest in peace.

    one little thing: it IS Maale Adumim. look: https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%93%D7%A8%D7%9A_%D7%9E%D7%A2%D7%9C%D7%94_%D7%90%D7%93%D7%95%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%9D

    • thanks dvorah, when I was writing this post I actually couldn’t remember the correct pronunciation (even after all those times yosef corrected me) so I looked up that same wikipedia entry you referred me to. And I still mixed it up (fixed now, thanks to you!)

  2. Beautiful ❤️ so important to b there for the elderly as their personalities and capabilities slowly fade. How painful how he sat there alone on the ground waiting for someone to help him and yet there was no one!
    Us women r the grout between the fragmented pieces of our loved ones trying to hold it altogether. Quite frankly l never truly understood the angry cries of women feminists who felt less than their male counterparts. I think Yosef would vehemently disagree with their cause. His wife was Queen and was simply lost without her.

    • never thought I’d love being thought of as “grout” until this comment:)

      • Grout is like the glue that holds everything together! Or the thread that stiches together the separate pieces of a patchwork quilt
        Or my personal favorite: women are like the Alka Seltzer which soothes all the unruly bubbles in our loved ones lives. anyway pick your metaphor – us women are just awesome! –

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