One winter night a few years ago my mother fell down a flight of stairs, breaking her neck. There was no spinal chord damage but her heart stopped in the ambulance. I flew out to the Midwest from LA, my sister from Manhattan. A few days later she developed an intestinal kink and began to hemorrhage. As they were attending to that problem, pneumonia set in. Her temperature was rising to critical levels.
The doctor walked my father and me into the hall and explained that a certain point had been passed and her body was conspiring to shut down. We sat there in an uncomprehending daze.
I had put all my classes and business in LA onto a single day so I flew back. On the connection to Chicago I ran into R. Yosef Weingarten, the Chabad meshullach.
“I’m on my way to the Rebbe,” he said, by which he meant the “tziyyon” in Queens. Write a k’vitl. I’ll take it. Come on.”
So I sat on the plane and took pen to paper. “Ana HaShem, rachem al nishmat Imi ha-tzanua…” I got a little teary and brought the nib up to my eye; why not? “Hatzel at nishmata ha-tehorah…” Hmmm, what am I doing? “be-zekhut hishtatchut ha-petek ha-zeh be tziyyon ha-Admor…” Hmm, z”l? Don’t want to offend anybody. “Al tziyyon ha-Admor, MaMaSh.” Well, that elides things.
I gave the k’vitl to Yossi and he pledged to take it to Queens that day. I did my business in LA, packed my black suit and the right kerakh of Yoreh Deah and flew back to Grand Rapids. “Well, her temperature went down,” said the doctors. My sister looked pale and wan.
I ran into Yossi in the hall of the hospital and told him. “My son is going back to New York today,” he said. “You have to keep the Rebbe informed.” I composed another prayer and handed it over.” “For future reference,” said Yossi, ”the Rebbe has a FAX.”
Slowly, my mother got better. One of us slept at the hospital every night in her room. My sister was indefatigable. My father took to pestering me, “did you send a FAX?”
My parents live in the San Fernando Valley now. It’s nearby and there is no ice. I was idly watching the Chabad telethon one night and their names scrolled past with a $180 donation. “Well, it’s the least they could do,” I thought.
“And that’s what you think happened?” asks my wife, indignantly. “You think it’s because of the petek and the kever?”
“We need the eggs,” I reply.