Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood

Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood
Celebrating Havdallah

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Mi Sheberach for me? I'll take it

It 's taken me over a week to finally have the energy, courage, and strength to get this blog post written.  After all, it's been quite the week. First, there was the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused to the entire Eastern coast. Thousands are still without power, shelter, or basic needs. Then, there was the 2012  election - an energy all of its own in this country. Finally, there was our own personal family crisis: this last week, my mother was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Because of so many other factors related to her health, we were told that we could maybe slow it down, but we couldn't stop it. My heart plummeted into my stomach. BOOM! Suddenly, everything became different.

It felt like something out of a movie. We went into the doctor's office first thing Monday morning of last week to get the devastating news - this is how long you have to live....maybe more, maybe less.  We should assess quality of life, not just quantity. How can we make you more comfortable in this whole process?
And before we knew it, my mother had to be admitted to the hospital because her blood numbers were so dangerously low.  Her cough was too suspect. She couldn't eat, she couldn't breathe. It was not good.

My father and I have been alternating days and nights staying at the hospital to help care for my mother. Shes been in for 10 days now. My grandmother, aunt, uncle, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew all came into town this last weekend. We're all hugging each other extra tightly, saying things we've never said to one another before (and we're not a shy bunch), shedding tears together, and working as hard as we can to support her and support each other.  We were never the kind of family to take much for granted, but right now, the gift of time is in our faces and we aren't going to lose a minute of it.

I've been thinking a lot about the Mi Sheberach prayer this last week. As a rabbi, I often remind my congregants that we are not only praying for those who are ill and in need of recovery, but we are also praying for the doctors and nurses that help to make our loved ones healthy, and the caregivers that support the sick day in and day out.  As I was thinking of this, suddenly it hit me.  That's me. I'm in need of a little strength, comfort, and prayer too - suddenly I have become a caregiver, helping my very sick mother to be more comfortable and help her be as healthy as possible, while trying to keep her spirits high and the hope of miracles alive. Of course my mother needs to be at the forefront of prayers - praying for comfort and strength for her. But my family and I could use a little prayer too - we too are in need of comfort, strength, support, and love.

This is not easy for me to say. Part of the reason I became a rabbi is because I enjoy caring for others and find it hard to often accept it, myself. It's more comfortable for me to focus on you than for you to focus on me. Plus, I'm pretty independent, pretty self-sufficient, and pretty accustomed to being strong - both for myself and others.

But, right now, I'm a mess.  My mother is laying in the hospital bed next to me on oxygen, dialysis, and light chemo (in order to alleviate some of the difficult symptoms she is experiencing right now - not to try and cure it) and we don't know what each day will bring.  There are good days and there are bad days. But the constants in our life haven't wavered.  Those of you who have texted, called, emailed, sent notes/cards and brought us food - we are so grateful to you and feel so supported by your love and friendship. Truthfully, that has really helped sustain us.
And our faith has  helped sustain us as well: a visit from our Rabbi here in Indiana who offered words of prayer and comfort. The Jewish songs my mother asked me to sing in her room as she received her first chemo treatment. And the prayer for healing. Mi Sheberach - may the one who blessed our ancestors, bless us and heal us now.

When everything changes in a moment, we must cling to one another,  to our Judaism and be strong enough to say , "I need a little extra strength and support right now." No matter what the future brings, we can always count on these things to sustain us.

If you are the praying type, my mother's name is Sharon Wood. She could certainly use your thoughts and prayers. Come to think of it, so could I.


Claire said...

I am in tears and speechless. You are an amazing woman! It is a testament to the journey you are taking that you now come to a place where you can ask others to pray for you. I hope you find the comfort and strength that you have given so many others.
xoxox Claire

Anonymous said...

Liz, I will add your mother and your whole family to my weekly misheberach list. May the caring one hold you as you travel this difficult journey. Ruth Abusch-Magder

Rav Yoga said...

Remember all the times people have thanked you for being there for them and let them be there for you. Let them do that mitzvah. It's so great that you can admit that you're a mess and need help, of course your mom is so sick. As a rabbi who has also been in need, it was not easy, but completely necessary to let people take care of me/us and I'm eternally grateful. Let everyone do everything else so you can be there with your mom, and so you can eat/sleep/stretch/breath/pray. Refuah shleima to your mom, you and your whole family. One second at a time. -Heather Altman

Danny said...

Liz, I am so sorry to hear your news. The post is both powerful and moving. I will make sure to think of you and your mother when offering the Mi Shebeirach prayer, and if there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. We are thinking of you at this difficult time, Danny

Anonymous said...


You, your mother, and your family are in my prayers during this difficult time. May The Lord bring comfort and peace during this time of uncertainty and pain.

Josh Nix

Peggy Segal said...

Liz, your blog brought tears to my eyes. Not just because of the sadness of the message but because I could literally hear your heart breaking. No one should have to bear this kind of pain. You are a Rabbi who provides strength and faith for others; let the community of people who care about you now reciprocate. I hope you can feel the love that is being sent your way. Know that you, your mother and your entire family are in my thoughts and prayers. Love, peggy segal

Bruce Kadden said...

Thanks for openly sharing what is happening so that we can reach out to you at this difficult time. May you and your family find the strength and faith to care for your mother and for each other.
You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Bruce Kadden

Rebecca Einstein Schorr said...

Oh Liz...I am so very sorry to learn about your mom. What a gift that you are able to be present for your family during this scary and difficult time.

We are keeping you in our prayers.

Rebecca and the gang.

Keep Pace with the Sun said...

Friend of Rebecca Schorr & saw your post on FB. I have added your mom's name to top of my personal list, and will keep you in my thoughts & prayers, as well. Be strong--continue to be who you are: strong, capable, self-sufficient, etc,--and also remember to be kind to yourself, and to ask for help and support as you need it.

Kathy F said...

So sorry to hear this. Will definitely keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
I know this disease all too well.

Anonymous said...

I'll add your and your mom's names during our Mi Shebeirach prayer at my shul in Chicago tomorrow, and I've shared your post with my Facebook friends asking them to consider the same. I'm so sorry this is happening to your family. Sometimes, the best we can do is just lay back and float on the waters of the Shechina while the waves of life crash over us. We can't control the pain that may enter our lives. The only thing we can control is our response. We can choose to love harder. Love fearlessly. Love until it hurts. Because whatever happens, the hurt will eventually recede. But the love--our capacity to accept it and give it no matter what--and most of all, to remember it--is what will endure. May your family be blessed with the capacity to love with abandon right now, may you receive the love of friends near and far, and may it be of comfort.

Amalia Shifriss said...

Liz--- I am just seeing this. Much love and healing to your family, and especially your Mother. I am actually back in NY right now, for work/seeing Jer again. If you ever want to talk, always feel free. I have a Father who has been living with Leukemia for 15 years and an Uncle who has been fighting it for the past couple of years. I actually just did a walk a couple of weeks ago to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You are amazing and I am so glad you are able to be with your Mother right now. My thoughts are with you.