When I was a child growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles, our next door neighbors were also our best friends. This was in an era before genetic testing, and our neighbors, who had 3 daughters and a son, had two children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. When their eldest daughter passed away in the early 1970s, she was 21. At that time she was the oldest living cystic fibrosis patient on record. Our neighbor’s only son passed away two years later at age nine, about the same age as me at the time – – and his young age was unfortunately a far more typical scenario for this disease back then. It was the first time as a child that I had experienced the death of a peer. It was all very strange and very sad.
In the 1990’s, one of our friends and former neighbors from Israel (we first lived in Israel from 1983 – 1989) gave birth to a baby girl that seemed perfectly healthy at birth. They didn’t have a car so I had the lucky job of picking them up from the hospital in our car and taking them home. The baby was adorable! But within 2 weeks, the infant was admitted to the hospital with suspected pneumonia. It turned out not to be pneumonia at all – she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
It’s a horrible disease, but it’s not the early death sentence it once was when we mourned our next-door neighbor’s children in the 1970s.
But back to my American friend living in Israel.
Fast forward twenty years.
A few years ago I visited Israel and met up with my friend. She told me her daughter wanted to get married – – did I know anyone for her and could I please keep her in mind? Her daughter occasionally had setbacks but she was managing her illness well, and it rarely prevented her from doing the things she wanted to do.
That daughter not only found her bashert – – a young man from Bnai Brak whom she married almost 2 years ago; last week she gave birth to her first child, a baby boy. She had an uneventful pregnancy and a wonderful birth. Today was the baby’s brit milah (circumcision) ceremony.
What do you say when you see a young woman that you’ve known from birth beat the odds, and despite her challenges, have the incredible focus, drive, strength, emuna (belief) and bitachon (faith) to actualize her hopes and dreams?
So welcome to the world, little Yonah Binyamin, a second-generation sabra on his mother’s side. You are an open miracle.
You are made of greatness.