Thursday, November 17, 2011

RivkA Redux

"Have Faith."
"Believe in Miracles."
"Choose Life."

RivkA Zuckerman Matitya, my brave and jubilant friend who died last year after a long battle with breast cancer, appeared larger than life on the screen, at the Memorial Gathering in her honor in Jerusalem tonight.  I recognized many people in the packed room, and marveled at the diversity of the gathered group:  young and old, religious and secular, Israeli and Anglo-Saxon, from all walks of life.  All the people that I knew, scattered among the crowd, unified by RivkA; they would not have been in the same room together otherwise.

A leader in the La Leche movement, a swim instructor, a special-needs educator, inspirational speaker, blogger, and a loving mother and wife.  I am overwhelmed how RivkA's embrace of life continues to influence those around her, one year after her passing.  I am sad for her three children and husband, her siblings and her parents, who must feel the loss every day.  I wonder how much more she could have accomplished had she defeated the disease.

I returned home tonight feeling ashamed of myself for not contributing more to my community and for the world at large, disappointed because I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I first entered this plane of existence.

 My mind started to recall the person I was in college, when I first met RivkA.  If there was a political cause, I joined with a vengance.  If I observed injustice in society, I pursued a solution with passion.  I can vividly recall a conversation in the Barnard-Columbia Kosher kitchen, in which it was decided that I would (naturally) be Prime Minister of Israel, the next woman PM after Golda;  and then I hand-picked my cabinet from my assembled close friends, based upon their individual strengths and our committment to Israel and the Jewish people.

I was going to be regularly featured on the front page of the New York Times.  I was going to change the world.

Yet here I am today, 43 years old, quietly helping my Chiropractic clients improve their health and lead better lives for themselves and their families. I volunteer with the Jerusalem Street Cat Society.   I don't feel like that is enough.  Here I am, 43 years old, raising my amazing daughter to G-d willing be the most fulfilled person, to be able to express the best parts of her.  Is that enough?  I can say for sure that if Raphaela is my legacy as a human being and as a mother, that will be enough for me, I take joy from that knowledge every day.  If my taking the step to become a single mother by choice helps another woman fulfill her dream, I am thankful to serve as an inspiration or a role model on some small level.

And yet, I want to do something bigger, something more substantial.  I need to rediscover my Inner Idealist, the woman who seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of paying bills and managing schedules and simply surviving.

When my grandmother died, so many people came to the shiva, many of whom we did not know.  We listened to their stories, how they came to fall into my Bubby's sphere of influence.  One woman told us that my grandmother had been cooking her and delivering to her Shabbat meals,every week for the last twenty years.  One man told us that my grandmother had been volunteering at the hospital with him, in her "spare time."  Several married couples told us that if it had not been for my grandmother, their relationship would not have lasted intact all these years.  And on and on...

We always knew my grandmother didn't sleep much, but we had no idea how much she gave of herself, often at the cost to herself.

When I have lived a long life, when I move on, what will be said about me?  Will I have made a real difference?

1 comment:

Midlife Singlemum said...

I too knew Rivka and she was indeed a wonderful woman. As for your conribution to the community etc... it's good that you have it in your mind as a 'must do' but some things have to be put on hold at various times of your life. Atm you are a single mother of a 2yo, which is plenty for anyone to cope with. I'm watching this space as I have no doubt that in a few years time you'll be back out there making a difference again.