I am a very poor public speaker, especially compared to Yossi, who spoke so eloquently on several occasions last year, especially for an 11 and 12 year old boy. I know this is going to ramble, so please bear with me as I try to pay tribute to Yossi, maybe I will scratch the surface of his greatness. The sad thing is that in a few weeks from now, I should have been speaking at his bar mitzvah, but instead I am speaking at his funeral!
First I need to say some thankyous. The biggest one goes to my wife. She fought so hard for Yossi for so long. She did so much research and never gave up. I am so glad that she had the strength and will to do that for Yossi. She kept her faith and even grew stronger in so many trying times. Right up to the end, she was asking doctors, nurses, etc, Jewish and non-Jewish, to give charity, to pray, to do good deeds in Yossi’s merit and memory. I don’t think I will ever meet someone else that strong in their beliefs, because the real test comes when a person is faced with such terrible adversity.
Just as importantly, my parents deserve more thank yous than we could ever say to them. From the beginning in 1997, they helped us so much. They took the other kids, or stayed with them in our house, they fed them, got them to school, etc. They stayed with Yossi in the hospital countless days and nights. They cried and hoped and prayed right along with us. They fought for Yossi and his cure all the way to the bitter end. They never gave up hope. After Yossi’s first transplant, they took Yossi in for 16 months. They had their house cleaned from top to bottom, they adhered to all the post transplant precautions, even going above and beyond them. They took such unbelievable care of Yossi, because of them, he stayed out of the hospital after his transplant, a very rare feat. They would get up at all hours of the night to make sure Yossi got his medicines on time, they took him to clinic and for procedures, they cooked for him, cleaned for him. They cleaned his bathroom EVERY day and made sure he took a shower every day. They gave over their home and their lives for Yossi. They got joint custody of him so he could get a tutor from Henrico as opposed to the city of Richmond. They took much better care of him than we could have. When Yossi finally came home he was happy and healthy and strong. When it came for his second transplant, they took the 3 kids into their house again. Of course, the biggest thing was that my father gave his marrow to save Yossi. In fact, the marrow worked great, it engrafted very quickly and Yossi had 100% of his grandpa’s marrow. When we asked them to come to Minnesota, they packed up quickly and came that day. There is no way we could ever repay them and I apologize to them for losing Yossi. He was like their son, not grandson and this is a terrible blow.
Of course the people of Richmond, in the Jewish community, at my work, and elsewhere helped us from the beginning. Cooking for us, cleaning, helping in many ways financially and otherwise. Some people came all the way out to Minneapolis at the end, and that was a great comfort to us. They took care of all the arrangements for this terrible day. Again, we could never repay any of this.
The community in Minneapolis was super also. They took our kids into their school and their homes they drove them all around town, they picked up people at the airport, they brought us dinner every day, they did shopping and errands for us They also took care of so much of the arrangements on that end.. Minneapolis is a great place, I love the weather, and the people.
There really is no need to sing Yossi’s praises, everyone of you is here because you know how great Yossi was. Still, I would like to talk about him if I can. Yossi survived much longer than all the experts predicted. Even at the end, he refused to leave. Even with all his maladies, his sedation, he hung on and on. He wanted to live, he wanted to be a normal kid and play with his friends.
The first night in the hospital in Minneapolis he asked the nurse not to use the automatic blood pressuremonitor because he feared the noise would wake me up. That was Yossi, always thinking about others and us before himself. He never complained all throughout his sickness. He always said thank you to the nurses and doctors even when they inflicted pain on him. I learned a lot from him about being polite. He had such a great sense of humor and could give it as well as he could take it. Every night in the hospital before going to sleep I would tell Yossi “Good night Yossi, remember I am right over there…so don’t make too much noise…that was the joke…he thought I was going to say that I am right over there and that if he needs me just let me know…he took it in stride. I remember so many jokes he would play. One time after his first transplant his ankle was stolen. Grandpa was very worried, so Yossi and I took a big sock and stuffed it with tissues, so when Grandpa came over, he came right into Yossis room and asked how he was. Yossi held out his ankle and said it is very swollen, he got Grandpa real good. Yossi’s main concern was how we would be if he ever died from the leukemia. Of course we told him we would be fine, but that really isn’t the case. I take no credit for Yossi’s greatness that is for sure. I had such a good time with Yossi the short time he was awake in the hospital. We played Nintendo, we talked, watched the Super Bowl, snuggled together in bed and all kinds of things. At one point I took Goldie and Sruli to Mall of America and I bought Yossi a lot of stuff, including 3 GI Joes. He was so kind, that he decided to send one of the GI Joes home to his brother Shauly. Once again, his kindness was evident.
Really, there is no point for me to be speaking, even if I was an eloquent speaker, there is no way I could do justice to Yossi. There is nothing I can say or do to bring him back and there is no way for me to make anyone feel better about what happened. I have no answers, just many many questions. I can’t accept what happened, and I don’t want to accept it. How could he be gone? How could this have happened if so many people all over the world, of all different religions and backgrounds prayed for him and did good deeds? Why did he have to suffer so much? Why did he have to lie there for 31 days in such a terrible state, with almost every day bringing more bad news? Why did he literally have to be eaten alive by this fungus, aspergillus? Why did his kidneys fail, as well as the rest of his organs? Why did he probably have brain damage and terrible graft vs host disease? Why did we have to suffer along with him for so long? How are parents ever supposed to get over that…why did we have to make the impossible decision to turn off his dopamine and effectively stop his heart? I know that I will never be able to recover from all this and if I didn’t have a wife and other kids, I wouldn’t even try. I cant understand why G-d didn’t answer everyones prayers…what more could have been done?…Yossi inspired so many people, Leah had the doctors, nurses and staff coming in to Yossi’s room JUST to give charity and do good deeds. Of course, I commented to Leah that if the doctors are praying and doing good deeds, then it must be over for Yossi. So, I am angry and upset and in shock and don’t know what to do next.
In the end, it is so unfair to Yossi. Yes, we believe he is going to a better place. But, Yossi wanted to live…he wanted to be a normal kid and play with his friends. He was a budding artist…he was completely self taught and had mastered many advanced techniques. He did so well in school considering he missed 2 full years, he was athletic and worked so hard to get back in shape after being restricted for so long. He fought so long and so hard, 3 ½ years of his short life were consumed by this terrible disease. He always was so upbeat, and not until right before he was going to be sedated to put in the dialysis port did he ever really express any fear. He asked us before his surgery if this was something he could die from. We told him no, and although technically we werent wrong, the fact is he never woke up and he died. I used to tell him that he has been asleep for a while and not to be scared, he would wake up soon and would be ok. So it is like we lied to him, we failed him as parents, we tried so hard, but we couldn’t save him. I think a parent’s main responsibility is to protect and care for their chidlren and we didn’t fulfill our end of the bargain. At the very least we know his suffering is over. Although he was heavily sedated the last month, at the beginning he could feel pain and we saw that in his grimaces. At the end, I truly feel that at some level he was suffering, whether it was his body, his soul or both.
He was my friend, my best friend, and he still is, yet I wont be able to be with him and play with him and talk to him and I don’t know how I can put him in the ground and cover him with dirt. I still don’t totally believe he is gone.
Yossi, I know you are going straight to shamayim, heaven, please take care of your family down here and wait for us to one day join you up there, I am not sure if I will make it, but Mommy and the kids will.