The Gift of Chaya Rivkah

By Lori Lurie
January 16, 2004

Chaya Rivkah and I sat one ‘chemo' morning, talking about her dreams, hopes, wishes and visions. The intensity of the morning was spiked with laughter, seriousness, clarity and tears.

She spoke about ‘her' women, her support system, her friends, and what it felt like to be surrounded by this group of amazing individuals each giving of themselves to enable her process of recovery. I spoke about her and what she inspires in each person to bring out these special qualities in each person.

Her greatest wish was for the women to meet one another and create a Society of Womenpower whose strength would withstand the force of time.

She shared stories, glimpses into different women, their personalities, their lives and she glowed with appreciation as she described and named her ‘team players'.

I felt the urgency to meet and see this ‘force' that had formed a protective ring around her. I told her that I felt quite isolated and would like to meet some of the ‘inner circle'.

Together, we created the opportunity, - a Chanukah breakfast in my home.

Over thirty women came that morning to honor their special friend Chaya Rivkah. They came together to meet one another, to say Tehillim, put names to faces of the continual roster system that had been in effect since Chaya Rivkah became unwell. She had not been left in the hospital by herself for even one minute. Her friends were by her side untiringly, day and night, all the way.

I took a few moments to stop and feel the electricity in the room that day. I think everyone could feel the powerhouse of ‘dynamos' there in that room that day, and the strong love and caring force that brought us together for our dearest friend Chaya Rivkah.

We watched her muster up her incredible strength to ‘perform' her stand-up comedy routine. She united us with laughter and tears. We watch her as she used her incredible sense of humor to create a platform to thank each one of her friends for their unique qualities and their support and love that sustained her and helped her go on with her positive dance of life. We marveled at her choice of words, her wisdom and wit, her profundity as she captured the essence of each special friend. She publicly thanked each one separately, as well as those special friends who weren't there that morning. But more than that, her gift was to share us with each other. Every person felt special and she began a most meaningful journey for each of us. We bonded quietly that day, with our love and deep feelings for our special friend.

The morning was laced with friends performing for her, a special mime routine, poetry, ‘This is your life – Chaya Rivkah', Tehillim, good food, music and dancing. I was overwhelmed when she gave me a gift – her special friend who performed a special mime for me. My mind soared when I grasped the incredible meaning of her generosity and her love. She gave ‘us' as a gift to each other!

Her serious dvar torah captured the frailty of life, our opportunities, and the importance of counting our blessings, and our appreciation of every moment of our lives…. We cried, and smiled, and felt the pure emett (truth) that came out of her mouth. She gave us yet another gift –and our hearts felt so full of appreciation for her and each other. And then she played us one of her favorite songs and dedicated it to her support system, her friends and to how she felt about each one of us. The Bette Middler song, You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings , floated through the air, as it sang to her heroes, and touched us deeply.

In the course of the song, tears fell openly and our cheeks were wet, hearts full and breaking, as we listened to the precious words of a meaningful song that she shared with us – yet another gift that bonded us. As her tears fell, we all came together and formed a close circle around her, holding each other and swaying and crying, and being together in harmony with the music. Towards the end of the song, her face transformed us, as she broke into the most beautiful, full Chaya Rivkah smile. The love and friendship had penetrated her sadness and she felt the incredible warmth of support and togetherness, and felt the bond which would sustain her on her journey. She was not alone… and we were not alone – we were all in this together. Then she smiled and shouted that her nausea was gone – thanks to the strong medication that was her friends, and she stood up in an energetic burst and wanted to boogie. Yes, we danced and laughed and the music was loud and we were all there keeping up with her pace – for her, with her, for each other, and with each other.

The ‘bond' grew, there were faces to the many names, and more still to meet as special women rallied and surrounded her. When her mother, Muriel, and her closest cousin, Rinki, arrived from South Africa to be with her, they were warmly embraced into this close-knit circle of support and love. The outpouring of love and strength grew and the rotations of time with her became even stronger. The Tehillim seemed more meaningful as we davened not only for her, but for each other. Her wheel was in motion and we felt inspired by our Chaya Rivkah. Her constant encouragement and praise, her verbalized sense of deep appreciation and understanding of us, gave us koach (strength) to move forward together and be with her at all times. She inspired us and helped us and brought us together.

She gave us the most precious gift anyone could ever give – she began a process of creating an awesome bond of women who united out of love and dedication to their special, precious friend – Chaya Rivkah.

This was part of her dream… fulfilled.