|Shula and Meir Abergil
Our story begins more than 3 years ago, when I was preparing for my upcoming early retirement. Knowing that I would now have more free time, I began to look for places where I could volunteer, to really make a difference.
My brother Rafi Malka, a senior paramedic in Magen David Adom who offers training to the Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran medical staff, recommended that I go to the village and see it in action myself. The tour of the village included a visit to the high-dependency wing, where I saw Rahma for the first time.
Rahma was then 14 months old. Smaller than average and painfully skinny, in a stander holding her upright, she looked directly at me and smiled. That smile drew me in. I went over and gently hugged her, while tears of empathy and compassion streamed from my eyes. Once I had collected myself and could speak again, I informed the staff that I wanted to volunteer one-on-one with Rahma.
I used to come twice a week – and sometimes more. I would usually arrive straight from work to take her for walks. During our time together I would alternate between embracing her and crying.
It is hard to explain the depth of the connection that I – and later my husband Meir – forged with Rahma . If I had to describe it, I would call it a soul bond, transcending this world.
My husband and I are religious, believing people, and we follow the tenet of Rabbi Akiva: “Beloved is man, for he was created in the image [of G-d]; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to him that he was created in the image, as it is says, “For in the image of G-d, He made man” [Genesis 9:6] (Ethics of the Fathers, 3:18).
When Rahma turned two, we celebrated her birthday in the high-dependency wing, together with her loving caregivers.
We bought Rahma a white dress, baked her a cake, made a wreath of flowers, brought in colorful balloons, and designed cards and posters, just as I used to do for the children in the kindergartens where I used to work. The party was wonderfully festive, and my daughter, who videotaped the occasion, was also moved to tears amidst all the joy.
Once my husband Meir retired, he started accompanying me on my visits. Initially he was only my driver, but after a few visits, Meir felt just as connected to Rahma as I did.
By now we have become a family. We try to visit Rahma every day. We take her for a walk, read her a story, sing to her, play on the swings, and go to the safari animal petting corner. Mostly we just laugh together and we talk and talk without pause! Afterwards, we help her eat dinner (once she was weaned from the gastro tube, she learned to eat properly and neatly!), we help her brush her teeth, put on pajamas, and then we play peek-a-boo (which makes her laugh so much!).
Rahma is a delightful child. She was blessed with a joy of life and a developing sense of humor. Although she does not yet speak, she can communicate amazingly well! Every day she astounds us with something new she has learned to do. She is blessed with great understanding and the ability to find favor in people’s eyes, and she knows how to recognize goodness and return love – all in her own special, winning way.
There are, of course, days that are less good, when Rahma doesn’t feel well. It is immediately evident, and she ‘tells’ us about it with her body language and conveys how she is feeling with her expression and through her eyes. Even then, we treat her like any parents would. We strengthen her with steady hands and offer hugs and words of love and comfort, and she hugs back and hums until the pain passes.
We are so grateful and appreciative – to G-d and to the Aleh Negev staff – for giving us this amazing opportunity to know and love Rahma. We are thankful for every chance to shower her with love and bring her moments of pure joy and laughter.
And we pray that G-d grant Rahma and all her friends the health and strength they need to accompany them along the path to full recovery – and may she continue to have goodness bestowed upon her forever!
– Shula and Meir Abergil
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