I received a shocking phone call. It should not have been a shock, but to me it was shocking. My Bubby, 92 years old, has been moved to a hospice. The doctors are predicting her end is near.
I knew that I must travel to Israel to see my Bubby.
After arriving at Ben Gurion, I went straight to the hospice. My Bubby was lying in bed, her eyes closed and her breathing heavy. My aunt and uncle stood at her bedside.
My head began to throb. My knees began to buckle. As a Rabbi, I have witnessed this scene before, but this was different. It was my Bubby.
In my imagination when I hear the word Bubby, I think fierce pride, tight hugs, kisses, a listening ear, loving advice, hot food, delicious salmon, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, gifts, an easy laugh, elegance, class, moral values – but most of all, the word that comes to mind is selflessness.
When gazing into a Bubby’s eyes, the only thing you see staring back at you is love. You are never judged. The pride on her face when hearing of your accomplishments is priceless. It does not matter if you are 38 years old, when sitting in front of a Bubby, you suddenly feel like you are eight years old. When she tells you to finish the food on your plate, you happily oblige. When she asks you how you are feeling, you actually tell her the truth. You feel more honest in front of your Bubby, you feel more pure. You want to curl up next to her and listen to a story.
When I was 11, I spent six weeks of my summer in Israel with my grandparents. Every day, my Zaida would wake me up early and off we would go, touring the beautiful sights of Eretz Yisrael. My Zaida was young and strong and he was determined to give me a trip I would never forget.
After a long day, I would come back to my Bubby. She was always waiting with a big hug and a delicious meal. I was always so excited to tell her about everything I saw that day and she always listened attentively, like I was the only thing on her mind.
I remember sitting next to her on the balcony on those long Shabbat afternoons watching her concentrate on a puzzle. I would look at her beautiful face and I felt so safe. It was not her physical strength that made me feel safe, rather it was her emotional strength.
And now, as I looked at her through tears in my eyes, the roles were suddenly reversed. She looked weak and frail – I was meant to give her comfort. I kissed her on the forehead and held her delicate hand in my head. I closed my eyes and, in my mind, I said thank you. Thank you for making me who I am today. Thank you for loving me so fiercely. Thank you for being an example of morals and values. Thank you for being the best Bubby.
Then I opened my eyes and said out loud: I love you so much, Bubby. Then all I saw was my beautiful, strong Bubby.