Monday, January 28th, 2008
Eran, our beloved child,
It has been a year.
I always thought you would outlive me. You were young and strong, and I thought you would live to a ripe old age. We thought we must hurry and build up ALEH Negev, while we were still young and had the strength, in order to assure a secure future for you after we were gone.
I set out on a trip to Los Angeles, a year ago, as always in a hurry to raise more money so we could continue to build your village. Then – the call from your mother Didi on the phone: “Doron, come home quickly, Eran’s condition is deteriorating.” The call came just as I was in the middle of speaking to a group in Los Angeles, telling them about the vital importance of establishing the village. There followed the wild rush to get to the airport, all the while speaking to your mother Didi and your sister Nitzan.
And finally, just as I entered the airport, Didi’s desperate cry: “Doron, you won’t make it, he’s stopped breathing…no! Eran is not with us any more.” And then Nitzan spoke to me and said: “Abba, he didn’t want you to see him so helpless.”
And then the long flight home, as I sat enveloped in grief and tears, writing the eulogy and trying to put into words the unwritten will and legacy you instilled in me. You were the greatest teacher I ever had in my life. You taught me unconditional love, about giving without limits, about the true measure of how to cope with difficulties – even those of inconceivable standards. You silently asked that I serve as your voice, that I speak in your name everywhere in the world, that I cry out on behalf of the weakest members in society to demand the rights they deserve, that I try to effect real change – I could only make that happen with the strength of the power you bequeathed me.
I always thought you would live longer than me. I thought my work would end after I had ensured a future of hope and rehabilitation for you in the ALEH Negev Village. For 23 years we held long, deep and intimate conversations, my beloved son, conversations in which you were alternately lively, vibrant, silently laughing or cavorting… but always loving. For me you were a riddle, an enigma from the day you were born. For 23 years I was busy trying to decipher the messages you passed along to me, my beloved son. Every movement, every flexing of muscle and furrowing of brow, every spasm of lips – like a diligent student, I tried to read and learn from your every gesture, to decode, to interpret, to feel, to be attentive and sensitive to your special world. And then, just as I thought the great mystery you posed dealt only with the nature of love between a father and son – that is the moment you left me. Without a final embrace. Without the chance to say goodbye. It’s as though you said to me: “The first test is over, Abba. Now the next one begins. But for this test, I won’t be at your side to help you.”
The 23 years of your life constituted the first phase of learning. Today, I understand that to live without you is the next phase in my education, where I have to learn how to forge ahead without guiding signs and motions from you. It’s as though you decided that I had progressed far enough in my lessons with you, and now I could go on and continue to try and unravel the mystery without you, my beloved Eran. Somehow you decided I was strong enough to cope with the hardest lesson of all – continuing to navigate the way without you.
You planted within me your pillar of fire and now it burns inside me intrinsically. I continue to travel to the village every week. I still visit your room; I walk where you walked and stop in your favorite places, and I go to see your friends in the village that bears your name and your legacy.
Eran, I still talk to you every day, that I may have the strength and inspiration to continue to build a future of hope – and a world that contains even more love.
Yahrzeit tribute for Eran Almog O.B.M. by Nitsan Almog, Eran’s sister
My Sweet Erani,
It’s already been a whole year since you left us, but the memory of your last day still echoes in my mind. Every minute that passed from the time we left the house that morning until we returned home that evening – they are indelibly etched deep inside me, and will never be erased.
Wednesday morning, February 7, 2007. That was your final day with us, and yet I still cannot fully accept that fact. I remember it all – the long drive to Be’er Sheva, which will never be for me just another trip; every time I pass that way I will remember how I travelled to see you for the last time – although I didn’t know it then… I recall Soroka Hospital, your room in the Intensive Care Unit, the bed where you slept, with you so weak and languishing, the beeping of the monitor that sounded and ebbed as you faded ….
I remember the one small moment when you gave us renewed hope when, for the fraction of a second, you managed to straighten in your bed and tried to remove your oxygen mask. That moment seemed to be evocative of your last desire: “Leave me in peace – I don’t want to be in this situation.”
Thinking about it still brings a lump to my throat, and the sharp pain that I felt in my heart has not left me since then.
Then the darkness and despair we felt afterwards, as we made our long way home with the knowledge that it was all over and you were gone.
It is said that every time people embark on a journey it changes them, and they return altered by the experience. But my own personal journey towards you is not over – nor do I think it ever will be.
I tread the way in sorrow, every footfall accompanied by tears, every step hurts me so much – but I have no choice: I am compelled to continue onwards.
I carry you with me in everything I do. I mention you at every opportunity; I invoke your name in lectures at university.
My brother – you who never said a word to me but, in your great silence, helped shape me into who I am. And who I am is simply Nitzan – your big sister.
I will love you forever.