The Miracle of Kindness at the End of My Father’s Life
When my father was in the final weeks of his life, languishing in Cornell hospital, I found myself reaching my breaking point. I was the only relative nearby that could come to the hospital on a regular basis. As a single parent, I was away from my kids for five Shabbosim in a row. It was more than any of us could take.
I called well-known Bikur Cholim and Chesed organizations, but they were overwhelmed with requests and were only able to help with volunteers once in a while.
I was about to give up hope and was close to falling apart when I took a break for fresh air outside the hospital. I saw a religious teenager with a young man, lugging a huge speaker on wheels, and I approached him and asked, “Are you from Mikimi (the organization that plays music to hospitalized patients)?”
He affirmed that he was. I pressed on, “Do you have any connections to volunteers or Jewish aides that stay overnight in the hospital? I’m desperate!”
The guy said, “Sure, no problem!”
I said, “You don’t understand, I need someone for tonight! I can’t do this 24/7 anymore!” He turned to me and handed me a business card that said Lecheiris. The logo was a pair of handcuffs.
“Isn’t this the organization that visits jails?”
He replied, “We do that too!”
I asked him his name. It was Shauly Roth. Only later did I find out that he was the one-man head of this Chesed operation.
We exchanged WhatsApp numbers. He guaranteed on the spot that he would send a volunteer for Shabbos.
Shortly thereafter, he arranged a volunteer to come to the hospital a couple of nights that week. I mentioned that I had no idea how to arrange for Mikimi to come. He said that he would take care of that. I was able to go home to sleep. The tzadikim, the amazing volunteers, put tefillin on my father and davened out loud with him every morning that they were there. I finally felt more like a human being. My kids had their mother back. My father was in capable hands. The relief was immense.
I came to the hospital on Friday with my children and they were afraid to see my father in such a weakened state. When we walked in, we were shocked to see that there was a concert happening in my father’s room. My father was too weak to talk, but he happily waved his hands to the music. We were so touched to witness it. There was a feeling of the Divine Presence in the air, a sense of contentment, happiness, and calm all at once. I can’t describe how amazing it was to have these young men sing these uplifting songs while my father’s soul was having its final days on earth.
A couple of nights later, we were informed by the hospital that my father was going to pass away within hours. The volunteer on hand at that time, who was only sixteen-years-old, was supportive of the larger extended family who had all rushed to be there. I told the volunteer that he could go home because we were there. He insisted on staying through the night so he could be there for minyan at my father’s passing. These are the kind of people that Lecheris has volunteering with them. Mi k’amcha Yisroel!
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mr. Roth and his organization. I am amazed at how he inspires and mobilizes his crew of volunteers to care for the caregivers who are all but spent. These incredible acts of kindness helped ease the pain of my father’s passing in a way that I will never forget.
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Judith B. Englard, also known as Didi, is a longtime Brooklyn resident, an artist, and a mom to three beautiful children. An Orthodox Jewish woman, she hails from a Chassidish family. She holds an MA in Education and special education. She recently lost her father to Myelofibrosis, a rare form of leukemia.