One year ago the world lost something – someone – very precious indeed. But I’m not going to talk about that. It is for wiser, more intellectual people than me to speak about the impact of a special soul on this world.
One year ago a community lost someone very precious. But I was not in her community so I will leave those words to people for whom she was a part of their daily life.
One year ago a loving family lost someone so very precious. Certainly, I would not dare to attempt to put to words the unbearable loss felt by a mother, a sister, a brother, a husband, a young son or a little daughter.
One year ago I lost someone very precious. About this personal, even selfish bit, I can try to speak. It was this personal loss that has caused me to grieve so much these last 12 months.
Lisa was more than just a friend. I knew her for more than 30 years. Though we’d first met in sleepaway camp, it was when I switched high schools, an emotionally delicate transition in the best of times, yet this was quite late, in the middle of 11th grade. Everyone had their chevras, their histories, their ‘place’ and suddenly I appeared, without a friend in the world. Lisa didn’t just befriend me; she embraced me wholeheartedly, AND she brought me into her circle.
Though we lost touch for a time, once we reconnected it was like we were never apart. When she and Avraham made Aliyah I was beyond excited. Being able to just pick up the phone and talk to her, stop and visit or meet was just amazing. I just wish I’d taken more advantage of those opportunities.
Lisa was a friend who injected fun into everything, yet she was so real. You always knew where you stood with her. She taught me a lot about honesty – being honest with yourself, and not being afraid to be honest with others even when it was difficult. The truth is she was larger than life, and will always be for me, which I suppose is a good thing since she no longer has her life…
Perhaps this will help me explain what I mean. Here’s something that my much younger sister said shortly after Lisa died:
- I met Lisa when I was about 4 years old. She came home from school with my sister, Laura. I grew up with Lisa in our house all the time. I remember thinking back then that Lisa was SOOOOOO tall! Imagine my surprise when I saw her years later. For a split second, I thought she had shrunk. I think in my mind, Lisa will always be the tall wonderful person that I met so many years ago…
I said at the start that I would be selfish, but actually there is a group of people with whom I do share this profound loss: our high school classmates. In fact, they have been the most comfort for me since we who have known her longest – and knew her together – share many of the same memories. We have reconnected through our pain and grief and in many ways I am actually representing all of us as I stand here before you today. And so I’d like to share some thoughts that I have both received from them, or found in comments they wrote to me or to Lisa at the time.
- Ickey: I lost a dear friend. Lisa was someone who taught me from a very early age to stand up for what you believe in and not be afraid to fight for what’s important to you. She taught me how to be courageous even when the chips are down. She taught me to question and defy and be strong. But she also showed me how to laugh. And cry. And be happy – so happy – with the gifts that G-d sends to you. She had no pretensions and no walls around her.
- Michele: What a wonderful friend Lisa was. She knew how hard high school was for me and she was always by my side…especially inviting me to her house for shabbos..,I think about her all the time.
- Alisha: I will always remember Lisa’s infectious laugh and her high spirits and also her love of Duran Duran… She filled my high school years with laughter and joy and silliness and man we needed it.
Actually a love of Duran Duran was something that Lisa and I shared and silly as it sounds, was a real part of the deep bond we cherished. I will probably always think of Lisa when I hear their songs. At first it was actually terribly painful to hear their music. As I have begun to accept and face the painful reality of Lisa’s loss, I have begun to shift my reaction to reflecting and remembering something about Lisa whenever I hear those songs. In some ways each song is like a little gift, an opportunity to step out of time for just a moment, cherish a brief recollection of a dear friend and hold onto her in the present – until the song ends.
When Lisa became ill last Pesach, she posted on Facebook that she was in the hospital. Alarmed, I called her right away not looking at the time. Had I realized it was well after 10 at night, I would not have picked up the phone. It was the last time I ever spoke to her. I wanted desperately to go and see Lisa in the hospital, but she was not conscious and in the ICU and I was told it was best not to. I’m not the best rule follower – another thing Lisa and I had in common but I won’t go into that now – but I did not go at that time, thinking I was doing right.
When things began to get critical, I started to fear the worst. I decided I had to go to the hospital even if it meant I was simply near her. I thought I might bump into someone from her family and I could simply – I didn’t know what, but I had to go. I lingered outside the ICU like a dummy for about a half hour but saw no one familiar. Finally I wrote a note to Lisa and her family and asked an entering staff member if they could just pass on my note to them. He offered to, but invited me in to deliver it myself. Feeling sneaky, I decided that Lisa would’ve done the same thing for me so I went in.
I don’t know if Lisa had any awareness at all at that point. I hung my note on her wall for the family, then I hugged Lisa, I kissed her, I begged her to get better, but, in case she wouldn’t, I said goodbye.
I know that death is a part of life, and Lisa’s in a better place, and all that. But she was actually in a darn good place as far as I could see. And that place seems a little less good without Lisa. But I’m a better person for knowing Lisa. If 42 years was all that G-d could spare of Lisa’s precious neshama in this world, than the fact that I have known Lisa for the majority of that time, and had a special, cherished friendship with her, is something I will forever be grateful for.