Today is my grandmother’s 96th birthday! Here is what she taught me: Up until last month I viewed my grandmother (Savta) as super-human. I was well aware that she survived horrific and unimaginable horrors during the Holocaust and that she suffered unthinkable pain in the concentration camps. And I also knew that after finally surviving the war and moving to Israel, she lost her firstborn son (Reuven) when he was just 18 years old, after a long battle with Crohn’s disease. I always just assumed that she was blessed with superpowers that made her the angel who she is.
You see my Savta would ride a bicycle and walk for miles well into her 80’s. She would cook, clean and shop for her friends and neighbors who were no longer able to. Life has taught her how to be a nurse, psychologist, life coach, baker, chef, painter, seamstress, nutritionist and more. Perhaps the most striking attribute about Savta is her love. Her love for life, for her family, for her friends and even for complete strangers. How can a human being suffer so much in life and still radiate so much kindness and love? I always assumed that she simply had this ability because she was blessed. God, it seemed, blessed her to be a super human.
Last month, I went to visit Savta in her apartment in Hertzeliya. She told me something that changed my life forever. She told me that her heart still hurts and her mind can’t ever forget what she went through. She said some days are so hard for her that she could not express it in words. I sat there shocked!! Savta, I thought to myself, but you are super human! I couldn’t believe what she just revealed to me.
On my way back to Jerusalem I processed what Savta told me and thought to myself “Wow, Savta is even more than a super human.” I came to the conclusion that Savta is who she is because she chooses to be that person. She has lifelong internal struggles but she never lets that sadness define how she will love or live her life. She chose good over evil, life over death, kindness over severity – and that’s what made her the super human Savta and friend to so many.
Until today, everyone who meets her is blown away by her character. My Savta has taught me that just because we have a struggle on the inside does not mean that we need to be sad on the outside. Savta showed me that the deeper the struggle the deeper the opportunity for light. Intrusive thoughts, sad memories or any other internal trouble can be flipped around, but it’s a choice that we all struggle with and that we all need to make.
Happy 96th birthday Savta. On behalf of everyone who has ever met you, thank you for showing us what it means to be an angel in this world. Wishing you continued health and happiness until 120.
I Love You,