It was just three days before. I had gotten on the bus, I saw my friends, Shifra and Hesky were on already. Something looked different about him to me, so much it compelled me to go and ask Hesky if there was something new. He told me nothing but just smiled. As I sat down behind him, I kept seeing something. He looked happier, lighter; a glow seemed to be emanating from him. I asked him again; maybe he lost weight or something. Shifra, his wife, answered that he did, but nothing significant. It appeased me, until three days later.
It was a time when the terrorists were using the local buses as their workplace. Bus bombings were the morning fear. They were announcing another one, just after I got to work. I listened to news of names but didn’t hear anyone I knew that had gotten killed. Not until I got home. Then it was everywhere and everyone was talking about him. Hesky had been sitting next to the suicide-bomber. His body had been riddled with metal, glass, nails. He hadn’t felt anything it was immediate; they said he still had his smile on.
We have a belief; 72 hours before one’s death, the soul knows. I am sure I had seen the light of his soul preparing to leave. His widow and seven children, as well as the entire town, found it hard to be consoled. He was a big personality, he cared about people and made people feel important, he was involved in a caring way in everyone’s lives with a good word, action, help, he was a doer, and a community activist.
And I don’t know if it happens with you, but for months I kept seeing him walking in front of me, entering a store, talking to someone on the street and always afterward I would notice it really was someone else. It seemed Hesky was still around until we were willing to let him go.
It wasn’t long afterward the harrow continue. Of course, every life snuffed out earlier than they are naturally expected is a dreadful, especially through terror, but the reality is it affects a person more if it is someone you know.
In a small neighborhood in Jerusalem mostly made up of Americans, one morning two terrorists came into the synagogue and alternatively started shooting and swinging their butcher knives at the men praying their morning service. I used to live there, so I knew many people from the area. Glued to the news, watching for names to be released, I could barely breathe. Two names kept popping in my head; Kalman Levine and Haim Rutman, husbands of friends of mine.
Kalman’s name was announced later that afternoon, only two hours before the massive funeral. But Haim’s wasn’t, I thought thankfully. But as I walked into the neighborhood, the roads were too full for regular transportation, to the funeral which was held at the synagogue, the crime scene, people were talking about how Haim was in the hospital. His head had been severed by a butcher knife and for some unknown reason, he was still alive. He died a year later, as his body healed, but his soul never woke up. Both had left their widows, my friends, and 9 orphans and grandchildren.
Why were they the only ones I was worried about when the news came out? I don’t know. A knowledge I could live without.
Shoshana Rachel was only sixteen. She had been a student of mine when I taught English privately. She always smiled. Her bus stopped at a traffic light and a terrorist starting shooting. Shoshana and another innocent thirteen-year-old boy were shot. She was rushed to the emergency room, where her mother worked as a nurse. That is how the family found out about her death.
The news reported a young girl shot from a school that was not that close to our town. Yet, when my friend who taught at the school called to say one of her students was killed, I just knew. “It was Shoshana, right?”
“I didn’t even know you knew her.”
Again I would see her for months in other young girls’ faces, in their walk, in their smile.
It is a miracle our souls can be contained in our bodies; they really are gigantic and when they leave, they go first leaving a memory by all those near them; emotionally or physically.
But souls can save their bodies’ lives too.
Once when my daughter was quite young, not even three, we were walking down the street as she pushed her little baby carriage. As we got to a corner, I instinctually stopped, but she hadn’t. As I looked up a car was turning right into her path. I called out to her. I thought I saw a hand come out and turn her around, as she nonchalantly came back to me as the car passed. The driver had never seen her. Even to this day, the fear that gripped my heart, I remember, which may not be too surprising. But what is startling is she remembers my fear and that unseen hand that turned her around.
Our souls connect us.