Sunday, May 08, 2016

Golden Hands

Barry and Brenda around the time of their engagement
‘Goldene Hendt’. That is what my father always used to say about my brother Barry. Er Hut Goldene Hendt. Which means his hands were golden in the sense that he was an extraordinarily talented craftsman. Virtually anything he touched - produced golden results.  

I used to idolize Barry. When I was little I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be around him all the time. He was my role model. Barry bought me my first bicycle, my first watch, and a little pool table that my mother let me set up right in the living room.

When he was drafted, I became the saddest little kid in town. My big brother was leaving me. Who’s going to fix my toys? Who’s going to be my role model?

Barry  was a Holocaust survivor along with our older (surviving) brother Jack. They were inseparable. They did everything together. I was a baby boomer - born after the Holocaust. I did not share the horrors they experienced. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for two young teenage brothers to lose a mother, 2 older brothers, twin sisters, and other relatives they both knew very well. I cannot imagine what it was like for them to live in three different bunkers hiding in constant fear of being discovered and killed by the Nazis. But survive they did.

After the war, my brothers were sent to the New York branch of the family and were enrolled in Yershiva  Torah VoDaath. But they were not well suited to the world or the Yeshiva – having been raised in bunkers under siege instead of in day schools or even a Cheder. Jack stayed on in New York and pursued a career as Chazan. Barry moved to Toledo where our father had relocated from Cuba - accepting a position as a cantor at Anshei Sefard, a synagogue in Toledo.

Barry was good with his hands and sought a career where he could use them. He eventually 
found a job in a dental laboratory that allowed him to observe Shabbos and Yom Tov by
excusing him from work on those days.

Before long, he was drafted into the army. It was 1952 during the height of the Korean War.
Barry was determined to advance his career and asked for duty in their medical division where
he could hone the skills he learned in Toledo. They agreed and sent him to Germany where the
best training in the field was located. He became a master dental technician there.

After his two year stint in the army, he joined my brother Jack in Chicago who had by then found a position as a cantor.

Soon after they opened Maryles Dental Laboratory and ran a successful business for over 50 years.
But the story doesn’t end here. Barry enabled my father to move to Chicago by training him in dental technology. I owe my own success in the dental business to Barry as I was trained for the subspecialty of dental restoration at my brothers’ expense. In short it was my brother’s ‘Goldene Hendt’ that ultimately provided financial stability for my parents and for me and my family.

There is no way to repay him now that he’s gone. I loved my brother. He was a good man. A loving husband and father to four children who always wanted the best for them. They are all now very successful in their on respective fields. I know that he died proud of his family. But after his wife Brenda died a few years ago, he was never the same.

Barry died on the first day of Pesach. I was not aware of his Petirah until Chol HaMoed. It was a shock to all of us.  What started out as a wonderful Pesach vacation with my children and grandchildren ended up with sitting Shiva for my brother upon the end of Yom Tov. Until then I could not observe Aveilus B’Farhesia (in public) so it was Yom Tov almost as usual for me.

I will end with the words from the website of Rabbi Aron Wolf, a Chabad Rabbi who founded and heads the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign (CMC). As part of his work Rabbi Wolf is a chaplain in Chicago area hospitals - providing for the needs of Jewish Patients. He was there for my brother: 
About a week before Passover, an unexpected health event unfortunately prevented "BM" (Barry Maryles - HM) from following through on his long-anticipated plan to spend the holiday together with many members of his family in the south of the country. Needless to say, this upsetting turn of events was the cause of much worry and concern to BM and his family. So it was quite a relief to hear the medical report that BM was anticipated to improve and slowly recover from the unexpected experience.

Sadly however, the events during the week that followed continued to defy expectations, as BM's health took yet another unexpected turn for the worse. On the eve of Passover, when Rabbi Wolf came to visit BM in the hospital and to help him put on tefillin, he found BM unable to respond or communicate in any way. Although the nurses seemed to think BM was just tired, Rabbi Wolf was very concerned. He returned to visit BM again that afternoon, this time finding that he had been transferred to the ICU.

With the patient lying unconscious, Rabbi Wolf began saying the words of the Shema prayer at his bedside. Incredibly, at the sound of the familiar holy words, the patient actually began to stir. And then, with great effort, and seemingly from an almost other-worldly place of consciousness, BM managed to audibly mumble the Shema along with the Rabbi.

"Seeing BM in that condition and then hearing him say the Shema along with me was just an unbelievable experience," said Rabbi Wolf. "It felt like having a small window into the world of the soul..."(T)he very next morning - the first day of the holiday - BM passed away.