February 12, 2010  
I Believe in Miracles

As he wiped the perspiration from his forehead his mind ran over the last time he visited his parents in Fort Lauderdale. It was just a few short years ago and they were both healthy. They were excited to see him and couldn’t wait to introduce him to their friends and all the wonderful restaurants offering early bird specials. Things were different now, they were in their mid-seventies and their health was failing. The year was 1996 and Jason just turned forty-three; after much soul searching he concluded that it would be best if he committed to caring for both parents. I remember speaking with him and he asked me to purchase a plane ticket for him. “I’m a little short on cash; would you buy it for me?” I mailed him the ticket.

Ten years had passed, his dad died from a heart attack, and his mom had a stroke, and dementia, and now they were both gone. He returned to New York to make a new life for himself; it was July of 2006.

He hadn’t been feeling well so he consulted a Dr. who arranged for him to go for a colonoscopy…he was diagnosed with stage four Colon Cancer and given two years to live.

His colon and half his liver were removed, and he received chemo, and radiation therapy. He was in denial, confused and couldn’t understand why this was happening. “Why me, why me?”, he’d ask. I never had an answer; all I could say was that I’m sorry and would do anything within my means to help him. I remember Arlene, my bashert, and I wept as we both prayed for comfort and mercy for healing him.

We live in Florida, and it was difficult for us to travel to New York, so we spoke to him often ( thank you Alexander Graham Bell!) At first we’d call two times a week but as time passed he and I spoke daily. Initially we spoke about the chemo, radiation and their side effects; and how he was feeling and adjusting. As time progressed he became more and more expressive and communicative about personal things. We had never been close, and Jason was good at talking about concrete subjects. He was given a new awareness of the world around him. “I love the sound of the birds singing and feeling the air on my skin. Mel, the sky was a beautiful blue today; it’s amazing how I never stopped to take the time to notice before this happened. I had a kosher corned beef sandwich today with a juicy sour pickle; Hmmm a mekhaya.” He began to share his thoughts, feelings and fears with me. Jason had a dislike for people that failed and wronged him in the past, and he was very angry and unforgiving; often wishing they were dead. He’d share the same story over and over again until finally I said, “Jason, hate and anger only hurts you, the people you hate don’t think twice about you, let it go, they don’t even know you’re thinking about them. It’s eating you up alive, it’s better to forgive them and close the door so that new doors can open up to you.” He hesitated and said, “Mel, you’re right”. He never spoke that way again.

When I’d mention G-d he’d say “I’m not a spiritual person; that’s your department.” As time went on he’d allow us to pray for him and miraculously we saw G-d answering our prayers. Doctors and nurses gave him special attention. In the past I had sent Jason bibles, tapes, c.d.s and DVDs, but he was unable to understand them. I am a Messianic Jew and Yeshua has given me a new strength. I would often share how my life had been changed when I allowed Him to enter my heart. I shared how much G-d really loves Jason. “Why me, why does G-d love me”, he’d query. “What is my purpose in life? Mel, I’m really scared to die. You know I don’t believe in the stuff you’re telling me.” “I understand Jason. G-ds Word gives me strength, it’s all about Faith and I have joy on a daily basis. You do not have to believe what I believe, I’m your cousin and I love you”. Jason asked that I not talk about that again and I didn’t, but he’d bring up the subject many times over the 4 years.

As Jason shared his day with me his purpose became evident; he was being used to touch, serve and help people. His smile always made others smile as he greeted the nurses and other patients while in chemotherapy. “You dropped your magazine; I’ll pick it up for you”, “let me share how I handle that problem”, “you’re phone doesn’t work, let me tell you how to fix it, you’re having a problem getting benefits, this is where you go”. He was never without a smile or a positive statement. “There are so many people worse off than me." Jason had a compassionate heart. He was also a storehouse of knowledge; when he spoke people listened.

Jason sought treatment for four years, beating the two years the Doctor. gave him. One time after a chemo treatment he said, “Mel, G-d is using me, I see His purpose for me, I can help people”, and Jason did. His condition worsened and although he had pain, fears, frustration and anxiety he always found a way to tell me how G-d used him that day. “My only wish is that I’ll be well enough to volunteer at a hospital to help people, even for an hour a week”.

Jason was blessed in many ways. His doctor loved him and would often make a late appointment for him so that they could sit and chat. Doctors that were not part of his insurance plan volunteered to do surgery on him without compensation. He told me that his oncologist visited him at a hospital with which he had no affiliation. As his condition worsened we spoke more often, two to three hours daily. He’d listen as I prayed for him and he cheered when G-d answered the prayer. Jason was concerned that he might not be getting the proper treatment, so I asked a friend, an Oncologist, to speak with him. “Mel, he spoke with me for over an hour, he even prayed for me; he’s such a busy man, why did he have time for me…someone he doesn’t even know?” “Jason, that’s G-d working in his heart. G-d loves him and loves you. That’s the way it works.

“Will you pay for my burial, Mel”? I replied by saying, “I’ll pay for a cremation. Arlene and I will be cremated.” “J, I can use the difference in money to bless other people,” I replied. In time he agreed to cremation and I agreed to keep his ashes in our home, to be placed with ours when it’s our turn to die.

During the last two months of J’s life he required more surgery and was in a lot of pain, spending six weeks in the hospital. He needed people to visit him. All family members excluding one, lived outside the state, so visits were few and far between, so we prayed for people to visit him. “Mel, you’re a meshugana. How do you ask G-d to send me people to visit me that don’t know me? Sometimes I think you ask the impossible.” “Jan, all I can do is pray. We’ve seen other prayers answered; G-d answers prayer”, was my reply. Jason was scheduled for surgery on Monday and told me he’d call me the next day. I found it strange when he called the night of the surgery. We assumed he’d be heavily sedated. Arlene and I were playing cards when he called, I turned up the speaker phone and put it on the table. Jason shared a spiritual experience which occurred during surgery and wanted to share it while it was still fresh in his mind. “It was during the surgery when I was visited by a man who stood by a door and pointed. I know I was not awake and I think it was G-d, yes, I know that for sure”. I had found that statement strange since he called while under sedation and less than five hours after surgery. He told me that he stood by a door and pointed. That is all that was said. The next day Jason called to confess the true nature of the care he gave my mom. He and his Mom had visited my Mother every Sunday in Florida for years. “I did it because I needed a break and that’s why I would leave my Mom with yours and shop for your Mom and pick up her prescriptions. I received calls from other family members that wanted to know what was happening. Jason was calling people and apologizing for any wrong doings toward them. He began repenting for his wrong doings.

He required one last surgery; in the hospital he shared his room with, Michael, an elderly orthodox Jewish man. It was twenty-four hours after surgery and Michael was crying that the room was too cold. Jason, in great pain, and with many medical attachments, walked to the window and closed it. The next morning was Saturday, Shabbat, and the man’s family came to visit. J decided not to turn on his TV respecting their beliefs. As they were leaving they asked J why he had not turned on the TV. He replied, “It’s Shabbos and I didn’t want to be disrespectful”. Michael was diagnosed with dementia and Jason instructed the wife on how to feed her husband so that he would eat without choking. He shared ways of caring which he learned by caring for his parents. Interestingly, Jason could hardly move from the bed. He had a colostomy bag as well as a catheter and urine bag and could only receive relief from pain by lying in one position. The Orthodox Jewish family made Jason a member of their extended family. They’d bring him food and clothing; they had a large family and soon J had many visitors. I would say “J, this is G-d’s way, it’s bashert.” Jason told me that he decided that it was o.k. for him to be cremated. J could not afford a cremation and asked if I would pay for the cremation and keep his ashes to be placed with ours when we died. Initially he had indicated that he’d prefer a gravesite, but followed by saying “What would be the point, who would come to visit me?” I only have two cousins in New York and they are not religious and wouldn’t visit a grave.

It was another hot and humid July day in Florida. I had been outside and just entered the house the phone was ringing; it was Rebecca calling to tell me that Jason had passed at 6 a.m. He had haemorrhaged during the night and requested no more surgery be done. At 10 a.m. I received a call from a gentleman from his new extended family, the relatives of Michael. “We’d like to see that Jason is buried according to Jewish Law” he said. They offered to pay for the entire funeral.

Jason was buried and twenty people of his extended family attended the graveside service. People had wonderful things to say about him, he finally had the recognition he did not have while he was alive. We were told that not only would they pay for the burial but also the stone and will visit the grave site. I believe in G-d, prayer and miracles. Do you?

Shalom, stay warm and eat kosher
Mel (the fat guy)

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