Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dear Heather: Three Years Later

Dear Heather,
Three years ago, I was sitting in my Finance class, or whatever it's called, I can't remember at the moment, and I opened my iPad (I was obviously paying a whole lot of attention that day), and I found out that you had died. It was told to me by a two sentence post in a Facebook group for the Relay for Life team that you had created. It took everything in me not to cry at that moment.

As I sit here, at my desk, in college, wasting away by Shabbos afternoon, and trying not to cry so i won't have to redo my makeup, I look for words to express both what you gave to me and what I wish you could be here to see. I could write a hundred of these letters, and it would never be enough to make it okay that you won't walk around the track at Relay with your team or get to see me as a counselor. It isn't okay that cancer took you away from us when you were only 26. Nobody deserves to die, but you especially didn't.

The last time that I said the Mourner's Kaddish, I was taken back to the first night of JYG Kallah all those years ago, after you had essentially found me friends and started my life in NFTY with such an amazing, powerful few hours.  Then, I thought about my first year at camp. This summer I was a counselor in the very same cabin that you were my counselor in. I thought of you every day.

I am forever reminded of that line from the meditation before the Mourner's Kaddish, "And if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not on your mind." And I try my best to do this. I work hard and take care of people just as I think you'd want me to, but as we approach the day, your Yarzheit, I can't help but keep you in my mind. The Mourner's Kaddish isn't about death, it's about the beauty of life. And there is no person I know who encapsulated that life than you. To the last weeks, you were caring and selfless and forever an inspiration to me.

Selfishly, I wish you had gotten to see me get to be a counselor, and I have to say, I do tell my campers about you when they ask me where I learned to make friendship bracelets. I wish that you could have seen me thrive in college; I was still so unhappy the last time that we talked, and I hope you know, I'd like to think you know, that now, I am happier than I have ever been. And that you will live on forever in me and in every single person who you loved and who loved you. Your inspiration and desire to make the world better is something that I will carry with me whereever I go.

Great, now, I'm crying. At the end of the day, it comes down to this: I try to hold your optimism against my cynicism in my heart as go about my day, and I will miss you no matter how many years go by.

I miss you. Zichronam Livracha.

Love always,

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