Last night we attended Reuven’s funeral. Today his body is being shipped to Israel for burial there and is being accompanied by his parents. Additional services will take place Wednesday 1:30 PM at the Eretz HaChaim Cemetery in Bet Shemesh. After that my daughter and son in law will be sitting Shiva for a few hours at my son’s residence in Ramat Bet Shemesh – before their flight back later that evening.
The following is a slightly modified version of the Hespid - the eulogy I delivered last night.
Toobies. That’s how Reuven described all the tubes that went into his body during the first series of chemotherapy. We had all hoped that the chemo would rid his body of the tumors. It didn’t. But hope was not lost. He had a second series of chemo and a bone marrow transplant. This too did not take. Doctors never gave up hope. But after five years of chemotherapy of one type of another his body finally gave out. He died (yesterday) morning.
His life was not an easy one. He endured grueling chemotherapy sessions in the hospital and an operation that enabled him to keep his arm. As well as other operations early in his illness to remove the visible tumors. Then he had surgery to remove a growth in his skull.
And when he broke his leg last year – more surgeries. But he never lost his spirit. Despite his disabling illness and the broken leg that kept him off his feet for many months, his countenance was always radiant. His smile was infectious. He had what we call Chen. People were always favorably disposed to him. When he looked at you with that big smile across his face, you would forget for a moment that he was sick. His bald head with the surgical scar across it - did not detract from that perception. All you saw was a happy little boy – well adjusted with lots of friends.
It is hard to fathom how a child who is that sick can be so well adjusted. And so committed to his Yiddshkeit. He was always careful to make Brachos and Bentch and was serious about his daily Teffilos.
His attitiude can be attributed to many factors. Like the extended family that has always been there for them through thick and thin. And their many friends. The St. Louis community went beyond the call of duty too, When Reuven and his family still lived in St Louis, I could not believe how this community banded together to be there for Reuven and his parents. Whether it was in cooking meals for them or the regular and short notice babysitting by young people - the community was there. I was humbled by the love and caring showed by the Jewish community of St. Louis.
When my daughter and her family moved back to Chicago - the love and caring from St Louis never stopped. But Chicago rose to the occasion and was always there for them too. And no one can match the devotion of the extended Kirshner and Maryles families. They gave Neil and Tovi everything they needed and more.
However no one can top the Hishtadlus of his parents. I recall that at the bris of their twin sons, Neil’s father Sheldon spoke about Tovi’s devotion to Reuven. His eyes welled up with emotion - comparing Tovi’s relentless caring for Reuven to Hagar’s inability to look at her son Yishmael’s starvation in the desert. Tovi not only looked at Reuven she dealt with it head on and never looked away. This, he said is what a Jewish mother is. There is no such thing as ‘can’t’! A Jewish mother does not look away at her son’s misfortune the way Hagar did.
That is my daughter Tovi. She went to the ends of the earth to do what was necessary for not only Reuven, but all of her children. She stopped at nothing.
The people in St. Louis used to say that the Kirshner house was the happiest house in town. My daughter and son in law made sure that the spirits in the house remained high. You would never know there was a sick child in the house by the way they acted.
I have really only scratched the surface of how much his parents did to try and keep Reuven alive and healthy. No mother ever did more for a child than Tovi did for Reuven. It continued up to the last minute. Hope was never lost.
I just want to thank all the many thousands of people who Davened for him. The name Reuven Ben Tova Chaya was known around the world. We know that those Terffilos helped. I am convinced that they not only prolonged his life – but gave the family strength to carry on and do whatever was necessary.
But it was not to be. Reuven collapsed (yesterday) morning and could not be resuscitated.
I can still see his smiling face telling me that he wants to watch his parent’s wedding video. He used to come over to the house and do that a lot. Just last Thursday in fact ! And now he’s gone. At least in his earthly incarnation. But we know that his Neshama lives on and that he is now in heaven sitting before the Kiseh Hakovad and in God’s good ‘hands’.
Yhei Zichro Baruch