Saturday, March 17, 2012

2,524,608,000 seconds

One week ago today i experienced what was probably the most terrifying experience of my entire life. 

I thought that my precious, beautiful, sweet little red-headed 2-year-old girl was dying in my arms. Thank G-d she is and was fine, but I don't think I will ever forget the fear that pulsed through my body at that moment.

I was walking home with my family on a sunny Shabbat morning through the stone streets of Jerusalem's Old City where we live. It was me, my husband, my kids, and my husband's cousin and his young family walking home after a peaceful outing to shul and to the park. Very near to the end of our short walk home we had to climb a set of stone stairs. I was at the tail end of our group, facing backwards as I bounced our baby and stroller up the stairs with the skilled technique of an old city resident. Half-way up I heard my little daughter start to cry, seemingly because she wanted something.

Before I even knew what was going on, as I climbed the last couple of stairs, I started my usual line about how we use our words when we want something instead of crying... And as I scooped her up in my arms to finish telling her this, I could hear my husband and cousin attempting to explain to me that she had fallen during her protest and was now crying for good reason. But their words were just an echo ringing in my head because as they spoke I quickly began to realize that something was very wrong. My daughter started arching her back as one might do in a temper tantrum, only I realized that as she did it her body went stiff, her eyes rolled back, and she went limp in my arms. She very quickly turned blue in the face, I saw she wasn't breathing and I started screaming hysterically. 

"Get a doctor! Save my baby! Why aren't you doing anything?!" I shrieked urgently. My husband had grabbed my daughter from me and was trying to get me to calm down but I stood in the street hysterical as passers by stopped to try to help and figure out what was going on, only I didn't know myself. 

It turns out that when my daughter had been upset about whatever it was, she had lost her footing and fallen down very hard on her tailbone right onto our ancient stone sidewalk, which was apparently a much harsher fall than I had realized, having not seen it myself. So my husband and the others around me understood that she had just had the wind knocked right out of her and she would be fine. As soon as he took her from me, she actually came to and started crying, and I heard voices floating in the air with claims that crying is a good sign, which somewhere inside me rang true and I calmed somewhat although only on the inside (I'm pretty sure I was still crying and possibly screaming on the outside). Luckily, within a moment or two, a friend and neighbour stepped out of his house and saw the situation, quickly re-assuring us that she had only fainted, as his daughters unfortunately have a tendency of doing quite often, and there was nothing to be alarmed about. When she had fallen so hard, she went to cry but was a little shocked and couldn't catch her breath- hence the not breathing and fainting... 

So thank G-d, this near-death experience was a fake-out. But it made me realize that it just as easily could not have been, G-d forbid. When she went limp, not-breathing and blue, I felt like someone pulled this mighty off-lever of life, one like you might see controlling a factory floor. It was like in one split second, for no reason, out of the blue, my baby's life was just being shut down and there was nothing I could do about it. So I just started screaming. All I could think was, if we need to get her breathing again, we only have a few seconds to do it, and not being in the middle of an emergency room surrounded by a team of doctors with all the right equipment, I felt like a traveller in the desert knocked to the sandy ground from thirst, with no water and no salvation in sight. 

From this, I learned two things. One: we cannot wait for the off-lever to be pulled. I did a google search to see how many seconds are in an average human life. I came up with the title of this post- 2,524,608,000 seconds (or 80 years, if we're that lucky). Two and a half billion seconds and how many of them do we really use? In how many of them are we really grateful that we're even alive? That we have loved ones? That I even have a precious little 2-year-old baby girl? LIFE IS JUST TOO SHORT. We just do not have the luxury of time. 

We have to be who we want to be and live the way we want to live TODAY. I live in Israel. Today I might be in more danger living here than if I lived in Germany in 1939. A nuclear Iran could wipe me off the map, and you know what? The day before would be a normal day, just like today. And if it was my last day, how would I have used it...


Enough pettiness! Enough complaining! Enough 'if-only's! Every second is a gift to be treasured, experienced, and elevated towards a higher purpose. 

The Jewish understanding of G-d is not just that He made the world and left it to run by itself. The Jewish G-d is not only Creator, but also Sustainer and Supervisor. You know what that means? That for every second I have with my precious daughter, not only is He not pulling the 'off-lever', but He is pushing the 'on-lever'! 

And that was the second thing I learned. Not only must we appreciate every day, hour, minute, second... but when we are scared or feel like we don't have anywhere to turn, we have to be real that there is somewhere to turn- the Source of it all. As I stood there screaming, helpless, what I was really crying out for was for the green light to go back on, to hear the sound of the power-up... the gift of life to come rushing back into her- the gift of life that comes from G-d at every single moment, only normally much less noticeably. 

So if G-d is the one giving life, then why call out for doctors at all? 

In this world we have to put in our effort (it's called "hishtadlut" in Hebrew). In my situation, I was right to be calling out for help and doctors, because that's the way G-d created the world (e.g. that medical issues are solved by medical experts), but that doesn't mean it stops there. Because in addition to our efforts to work things out for ourselves in the physical world, we also recognize that there is a spiritual world that impacts what happens. And that is why we call out in prayer. So not only do I call out to the people around me, but I must also call to our Father in Heaven to make the change, to flood my daughter's little body with life again, to save my nation from another horrific onslaught G-d forbid, to save other loved ones, to rid the world of evil, poverty, starvation... First our effort, then our prayer to finish the job... that's the way it works...

We needn't wait for death and doom to loom over us before we wake up and see how good were 'the good ol' days'. Rather, let us see that we are in them now, that no matter what hardship exists, there is always good to be experienced and cherished. 

If any good comes from any of you reading this, may it be in the merit of the full recovery of my father, David Yaakov ben Golda. Please take a moment to pray for him if you can.

Thank you. 
Love, Julie