My connection to Bubby started at a very young age. When I was seven months old we visited her in Canada for my uncle's wedding.
As soon as she saw me she grabbed me and said, "This is mine." She put my crib in her room and picked me up as soon as I woke up every morning. When we were getting ready to leave to go back to Israel, she took one of my baby outfits and put it under her pillow, smelling it every morning. I always felt a very strong connection to her and she felt the same.
She was a good-hearted woman who did her very best to raise two children while running a restaurant with her husband. She didn't have an easy life. She was one of seven siblings. Her family came to Canada from Poland when she was five years old. Her father learned to be a shochet, (kosher slaughterer) who was murdered by anti-Semites while searching among villages for chickens to buy. The seven girls became orphans overnight and the three oldest ones (including my grandmother) had to leave school and find jobs.
In her old age she had various health problems. My mother decided to move back to Canada to take care of her as Bubby became helpless. My mother and her brother were so devoted to her.
In a phone conversation she told me, "Emunah, I would love to see you one more time." I didn't like the sound of it. Did she mean she was going to die soon? I just ignored it, not being able to admit to myself that people die at the end -- even beloved grandmothers.
A few months later a relative called me from the nursing home telling me that Bubby didn't have much time left. My grandmother wasn't able to talk at that stage, but she could hear me talking to her. I suddenly understood that I was going to lose her very soon.
"Bubby, do you want me to come?" She spoke and said, "Yah!"
"How are you? Bubby, I love you and just want you to feel better. Please take the medicine they're giving you and please drink!" She opened her eyes for the first time that day and showed her excitement. I heard her breathing heavily and knew that she was responding, so I asked her, "Bubby, do you want me to come?" She spoke and said, "Yah!"
We all knew that it was very important to fulfill her last wish. I was thinking to myself, How in the world am I going to leave my six kids and how am I going to get there in time??
With God's help I was on my way to Canada a day and a half later. I walked into her room as she slept. I gave her a kiss and whispered, "I'll be back in the morning."
In the morning I realized she wasn't able to talk, was barely eating and didn't really recognize anyone. When I walked in and said loudly into her ear, "It's Emunah, I came to see you," she was so happy! I was so happy to be there in time and yet was so sad to see my beloved grandmother dying. My mother and I decided to spend the entire Shabbat day beside her as we knew her time to go was getting very close.
Her Last Day
When we entered her room Shabbat morning we saw that this would be her last day on earth. It was very painful. We wanted to give her the most love, comfort, respect and peace we could give. She was going through all the stages one does when realizing death is so close. And we were trying our best to do the right thing for each stage.
We sang Shabbat songs for her, said Psalms, made the blessing over the wine and wet her mouth with grape-juice. My mother was holding her hand almost all day -- for 11 hours -- and telling her again and again not to be afraid because this world means suffering for her and she is going to such a good place. She told her that her parents, husband and family are waiting for her to come. My mother was so brave; I will never understand how she had the strength to say such things.
Bubby wanted us to say the Shema prayer again and again. She wasn't talking or moving but we felt exactly what she wanted and needed. It was the most spiritual Shabbat we ever had and we felt so fortunate to help her pass from this world to the next with us beside her, being with her almost up to the last moment...
If we could only see that the soul is going to such a better place, we would be laughing with joy.
Mr. and Mrs. Sands (my grandmother's niece) and Mrs. Lampert (my grandmother's friend) came to be with Bubby. We were all there together to support her with the second most difficult transition in life (the first one is birth). Death is like birth in so many ways. When a soul comes into this world the baby cries (because he's coming from a spiritual place into a materialistic world) and all the relatives are happy. When a person dies his soul is released from the material world back to its spiritual home and the relatives cry. If we could only see that the soul is going to such a better place, we would be laughing with joy.
The Final Hour
She was having difficulty breathing and we felt she was holding onto life because she didn't want to separate from us. Her son saw that as long as we were there Bubby would not give in to the angel of death.
When he understood that we are not able to detach ourselves from her, he tried to find a good excuse to help us leave. "Don't you want to see my grandchild? You didn't see him yet. We will only go for half an hour and come right back."
Deep down we felt that she was going to pass away right after we left. We said the Viduy (prayer of confession) with her and although she didn't know Hebrew, her soul recognized it and her eyes opened widely with a look of recognition. No words can describe that look. She knew her time had come.
About 40 minutes after leaving, the hospital called to tell us she had died. We rushed back to the hospital. She looked like an angel, so peaceful, her hands were still warm and we felt angels dancing in the room. The environment was so happy. I knew her soul was looking at us from above.
I knew my grandmother was in a good place just from standing in that room.
Not all people are so fortunate to have their loved ones around them on their last day, a day we filled with spirituality, respect and comfort. When relatives came to the Shiva we learned about the kindness Bubby had done.
She had a lot of merit.
Mary Maidenberg-Wiseman left two amazing children, seven wonderful grandchildren and 14 sweet great-grandchildren. She passed on Cheshvan 28, 5767.
May this be for an elevation of the soul of Miriam bat Yitzchak Leib.