by Susan Heagy
In 2004 I came to Israel with the express purpose of doing whatever God was going to tell me to do! I really did not understand what my tasks would look like; I just knew I was to come and He would give me instructions after I got here.
I looked at my future of ‘working for the Lord’ and thought in very practical terms. Little did I suspect He was about to set me on a journey including emotional rollercoasters, a bit of anger, extreme loneliness and more than enough of daily teachings of how to hear from Him.
As I went about my new ‘work’ with the Holocaust Survivors I was unprepared for the intense love God was giving me for them. Some days I would visit a Survivor and the trauma of their experiences, their loneliness and feelings of despair would be so intense I would return to my room, close my door and just weep. It took me time to learn what God wanted me to do with those feelings and continue to pour out the compassion they needed.
Pictured here is Esther whom I have known since 2004. She speaks 8 languages and just turned 96 years old. She still reads her Torah each night. In the last few years first her daughter died and now her husband. In spite of it all, mixed with the tragedies of her Holocaust past, she displays amazing strength. I myself had not seen her for a couple years but she remembered me immediately. It was gratifying for me to again spend time with this woman I so admire.
From there we went to see Sofia. I always knew when I came to see Sofia she would greet me with “Suzzanah! Ah, Suzannah, I am glad you came! Baruch HaShem! God has given me another day!” This woman, almost completely blind, appreciated each day. All by herself she would make her way out to the bus stop, take the bus to the senior center, and tell “all the old people to stop complaining and thank God for all he gives to us!”
But this visit was different. When I had seen her about six months before she had some small signs of dementia. But this time when we arrived she was sitting and staring, with no indication of activity near her or recognition of even her family. But as we got closer and they announced to her that Suzannah was here, she looked up towards me, grabbed my hand and exclaimed, “Suzannah! Oh, Suzannah! Sit down!!”
I sat and held her hand and she leaned towards me. I stroked her hair and her face and am not ashamed to admit I cried. It was such a loss for her, family, friends and a loss for me as well. But why would she forget her family, remember me and hold on so tightly?
The answer is simple. In her state of mind, the only one that can reach her at that point is HaShem. God can reach her. Whenever we came to visit before, every time, Adonai came into that home with us. THAT is what she recognized. She could not see me, but she remembered the name “Suzannah” along with the comforting spirit that came to her.
Each of the Survivors we meet I see a recognition on our return visits. They think they remember us, but they are actually experiencing all over again the love of God coming to them in the form of volunteers. We bring His love into their homes through our comfort without conditions. When we leave, Elohim remains with them.
Along with the sadness we experience through the aging of our Survivors, we are grateful for the joy and comfort of HaShem; He never forgets them and neither should we.