And, now after 100 springs and 100 winters…Lechayim, Lechayim, the Hebrew (and Yiddish) blessing of "to Life!"
On November 15, 2020, some 50 or more people called in on Zoom, relatives and friends from around the world to extend their love, care and affection for my dear aunt Fanya (Fanny) Brodsky (formerly Dunetz), on her 100th birthday. Still deep in Covid-19 times, amidst the continuation of social distancing, wearing of masks and inability to congregate in large groups, we made the effort to give Fanya a huge embrace from near and far: Israel, US, Canada, Argentina, Lithuania and Belarus- an unprecedented gathering and a momentous event.
Only two days before, we celebrated with Fanya "in the flesh" with a small group of close relatives, under the trees and with masks, nearby her assisted-living home. This too does not cease to be "alarmingly strange", even some 10 months into the Coronavirus grip on our lives.
Fanya is the last survivor of the Dunetz family of Zhetl, Poland (today Belarus), a family of 6, and an extended family of scores of relatives who were murdered by the Nazis and collaborators during the Holocaust. Only Fanya and her younger brother, Mordechai (Max, "Mot'l"- my father) survived. My father passed away on July 21, 2019 at the age of 96. Every time I speak to her (and phone calls are not very easy these days, there is just so much a hearing aid can do!), I never cease to miss my beloved father. How many times I think of him, what I could have asked him but didn't, what I should have asked him but didn't…
Dear Aunt Fanya is an amazing, intelligent woman, with incredible energy, life spirit and love of people. She was born just months after the infamous Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 was proclaimed over, and now she is with us with all her strength, tenacity, opinions, humor and wisdom. For a full century she has been on this earth, it is so amazing to think just how long that is, just how many changes she has seen in her time. Sometimes I just fantasize: what would I find if I were to be able to take a journey inside her conscious and unconscious mind? What would I find there, what would I learn? Perhaps one day we will be able to know such things. One thing this pandemic has taught me is that what we don't know is always greater than what we do know. Let us hope we continue to respect that fact.
"Shehecheyanu, Vihigianu lazman haze...", as the traditional Jewish "sustenance blessing" goes at such auspicious occasions. Lechayim , Lechayim, a traditional Jewish toast- "To Life!"