In memory of Chaya Sharona bas Shraga Feivel a’H
There are people and events in your life that transform the way you view things. Sometimes you recognize the enormity of the influence while you are engaged with that person or at the time that you experience the event. Sometimes you don’t realize how transformative someone or something is until the event is over and the person is no longer with you.
The person is Sharona Nagler a’H and the event was Purim 5766. Sharona was a friend whom I visited with my family and my friend, Lori, almost every Shabbos afternoon. I had moved to Teaneck a short while after Sharona underwent a heart transplant at Columbia Hospital in New York City .
I initially volunteered to visit Sharona when she was severely immunocompromised and unable to leave her home. I visited her, played board games with her and over the next weeks, months and years, I got to know her well. We continued to visit her late Shabbos afternoons, even when her immune system was strong enough for her to leave home.
We arrived at Sharona’s house just about every Shabbos afternoon, just as the sun was about to set. The younger kids would play with the toys in the family room, the older kids would show Sharona their latest gymnastic moves and the adults would talk. What I discovered in Sharona was a smart, courageous and appreciative friend. Sharona worked hard at recuperating from her heart transplant, and learned everything she could about her health and her medications. Sharona was a very attentive friend and never forgot a friend’s birthday or special occasion. She spent hours finding the perfect gift and could not wait to present it once she had selected the perfect present.
Sharona had the most wonderful group of friends. In fact, Sharona’s friends became my own friends. One friend would take her shopping, one would run errands with her, another would drive her to doctor appointments,and yet another would regularly get together with Sharona for coffee and fat-free muffins. Over the years that we knew Sharona, we attended birthday parties for her and heart-transplant anniversaries. There was joy, laughter and lots of small gifts.
As the years after her heart transplant went by, Sharona became weaker. She visited Columbia Hospital more regularly and we visited her there when we were able. When she was released from Columbia, she often moved to a rehabilitation care center nearby. We would visit her there and attend bingo with her.
Purim 5766 arrived and Sharona was recuperating at the rehabilitation center in a neighboring town. My husband, Don, was working that Purim, so I was on my own to deliver the Mishloach Manos and to set up for the seuda. There was so much to do and my stress level was high.
As I delivered Mishloach Manos to my friends, several of them asked me to send their best to Sharona because they would be unable to visit her. One even gave me Mishloach Manos to deliver to Sharona. I wasn’t sure that I would have the time to visit, but after realizing that none of her friends were able to visit, I felt compelled to stop by to see her.
It was an hour before our scheduled seuda. I packed up the kids and prepared Mishloach Manos for Sharona. I headed over to the rehab center. I was stressed, because I had not yet set the tables for the seuda and I was expecting a large number of guests.
When I arrived at the rehab center, I decided to stay in the car and send the kids in to deliver the Mishloach Manos to Sharona. I told the kids to hurry and to send my best to Sharona. I reminded them to explain that I had lots of company arriving and I was way behind schedule. They raced out to see her.
I impatiently waited in the car for the kids to return. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw them walking to the car ever so slowly. When the came to the car, they delivered news that I didn’t want to hear. Sharona was insisting that I come in to see her.
I told them that it was impossible and that they should explain to Sharona that I had lots still to do in preparation for the seuda. As much as I protested, my children insisted that I go in and visit with Sharona. To calm me down, my daughter, Michelle, kept reminding me that our Purim guests always arrive late and that I would be better served visiting Sharona.
Not too graciously, I stepped into the rehab center to see Sharona. When Sharona heard me coming, she met me in the doorway of her room. She dropped another bombshell. She wanted me to take her to her mother’s home for the family Purim seuda.
I rolled my eyes and explained to her that I was way behind schedule. I would take her, but she really needed to hurry up. I would go back to the car and pull around to the entrance near Sharona’s room. The kids would help her with her shoes and coat for the ride back home.
I returned to the car and raced around to the entrance near Sharona’s room. I waited and waited, but Sharona did not come out with the kids. I stomped back inside and my children patiently explained that Sharona was having difficulty getting her shoes on. I should have seen that as a red flag, but in my stressed state, I could only think of the unset table at home. I told Sharona that she would just have to wear her slippers and I helped her with her coat.
We got into the car as quickly as we could and the kids kept trying to calm me by saying that they would help me when we got home, that our guests never arrive on time and that everything would turn out fine. My stress level was rising and by now, it was past the called seuda time.
We arrived at Sharona’s home and the kids insisted that we all walk Sharona to the door. I finally listened to them and we all walked Sharona to the door. We embraced her and wished her family a Happy Purim. We arrived home in plenty of time to finish setting up before the guests arrived.
That was the very last time that Sharona had the opportunity to go home. She passed away just days later.
After her passing, I reviewed the events of that Purim. It forced me to really assess priorities. Why was I so stressed? What would have happened if my guests would have arrived and the table would not have been set? What if I would have missed the opportunity to bring Sharona home for one last time? What are my true priorities?
That Purim ten years ago transformed me. It made me take a real look at what things are fleeting and what things in life have eternal priority. I thank my children for helping me do the right thing. Most of all, I thank Sharona for being the type of friend who transformed me.