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Embracing Dad’s Wisdom

Embracing Dad’s Wisdom

Gedaliah Chaim obm, the author's father
Gedaliah Chaim obm, the author's father

“I’m going to buy a lot of orange juice today,” my dad used to joke. He had his own unique way of saying things. “Orange juice” meant we were in for a big shop, and a big treat. It often meant that Dad had gotten a new client, felt flush, and was pumped to buy us those fun, nonessential things we always wanted.

My dad loved to give.

As a child, I eagerly looked forward to going grocery shopping with him. It was one of our special father-daughter outings. As one of six children, you learn to take what you can get when it comes to private time with your parents. I loved watching him load up the entire cart, including the baby seat and bottom panel. I also delighted in getting him to buy me whatever I wanted, just because I could. “Dad,” I would chirp, designing charm in my voice, “I tried this cereal at my friend’s house, and it tasted so good. Can you buy me a box?”

As one of six children, you learn to take what you can get when it comes to private time with your parents“Sure,” he would say, with smiles in his eyes. “If it tastes so good, pick up a few more boxes for the brothers and sisters.”

As I got older and the family got bigger, and hungrier, we would often fill up two carts in one run. Once he bought 40 boxes of granola bars when they were on sale, and the cashier asked if he was shopping for an orphanage. “Dad,” I asked, abashed and bewildered, “do we really need all this? Isn’t it expensive? What if we run out of money?”

“It is expensive,” he said, unbowed by the burden of it. “And that’s why I work so hard—so that I can buy all the orange juice the family needs.”

Sometimes when he filled the cart to maximum capacity, it took numerous trips for us to bring all the groceries into the house. I remember trying to hold too many bags at once, just like he did. He made it look so easy. I wanted to be strong and quick like him. But those orange juice cartons were heavy, and they weighed down on my wrists like a ball and chain.

In our loud, busy and bustling home, I never wondered if my father loved me. I knew he did. I knew that he deeply enjoyed spending time with me. And I genuinely enjoyed spending time with him, too. Whether we were talking as we pushed the cart down the aisles, or laughing as we drove home with a trunk full of groceries, we had a great time together. And as I got older, I regarded him as one of my best friends.

Family was what my dad lived for, and what he fought so hard to continue living for.

The call I long dreaded came when I was in Israel. After a 10-year duel with cancer, he phoned me from his hospital bed in Chicago to invite me home to see him . . . and to say goodbye.

“The doctors say I’m going to kick soon,” he announced, as though it were one of his frequent business trips. “And I think they’re right this time.”

Dad always tried to keep it, not light, but non-melodramatic. He avoided the “D” word as much as possible. But to me, the “K” word was just as painful.

With acidic tears in my eyes and a mountain of fear in my gut, I trembled my way onto the next available flight and prayed to G‑d that I wouldn’t be too late. I took my eight-month-old son with me, leaving my daughter and husband behind. The whole way there I thought about my dad, how much I loved him, and how badly I hoped he wouldn’t “kick.”

He savored life, and for him the greatest joy was making others happyI remembered how when we were kids, he used to take us to Toys “R” Us on his birthday, and let us choose whatever we wanted. And whenever he took us out to a restaurant, he would order almost everything on the menu, to make it a party. He savored life, and for him the greatest joy was making others happy.

Entering his hospital room, I squelched a gasp. He was almost unrecognizable. My big, strong Dad, who used to carry all those heavy bags, swim laps, bike for miles and practice taekwondo with me, was now frail on his hospital bed, injected with tubes and needles.

From behind his swollen cheeks, he smiled lovingly at me.

I bit my tongue.

He radiated peace, love and acceptance.

I was overwhelmed with tension, helplessness and sorrow. My brother Gabe was standing beside Dad; my sister Joey slumped in a chair beside his bed. Both were inconsolable. Dad tried to make us comfortable, as we watched him struggle to breathe with his one remaining cancer-infested lung. He offered to order in pizza for us, but nobody could think of eating. He wanted us to be happy. He joked. He smiled. He spoke words of faith and hope, and despite our misery, he warmed us with his luminous glow.

“When G‑d presents a challenge, you have to deal with it,” he wrote to us in his goodbye letter a few weeks before he died. “What looks like a traumatic experience is actually the transition from this world to the next . . . Most of us don’t think about it, but we’re all in the process of dying. I’ve been fighting cancer for almost 10 years, so in a way I’ve been fortunate to confront issues of life and death.”

Dad was never a complainer. And even now, with plastic pipes in his nostrils and a team of nurses assisting him with his basic bodily functions, he seemed content. And he was. “I am at peace with everything that is happening to me,” his letter continued. “I feel that the quality of my life outweighed my relatively short time in this world. It was a worthwhile tradeoff . . . I count my blessings, and I say thank you G‑d for all You have given me.”

I wished I could stay with him forever, but I had to get back to my husband and daughter in Israel. I knew I had to get past my own grief and make each second count.

I tried to extract as much wisdom and guidance from him as possible. “Talk more, Dad,” I pleaded. “I just want to hear you speak. Your words are my inheritance. I’m going to embrace them forever. Tell me what matters in life. Tell me what’s real. Tell me what to do when times get tough. Tell me how to cope without you.”

“I just want to hear you speak. Your words are my inheritance..." “Keep on living,” he said. “Keep on achieving. I treasure the love that my children have for me. Be passionate about your work, and love your family. I’ll always be with you.”

Before I left for the airport, before the heart-wrenching final goodbye, before the two carts full of tears that I cried, he said to me, “Whenever things got tight, and I thought I wouldn’t have enough money to buy orange juice for the family, G‑d always brought me another client. He made sure that we always had our orange juice. G‑d came through for me every time. And he will for you too. Remember that.”

And I do. I remember my father’s words often, and I feel comforted.

May this article be an elevation for the soul of my father, Gedaliah Chaim ben Shmuel Baruch.

Ariella Sunny Levi is a mother of four who has returned to her roots in Chicago after living in Israel for four years. She is a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo, and hopes to help empower women both physically and spiritually through her martial arts classes and inspirational writing.
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Menucha June 21, 2015

Genuinely Hearfelt This article was everything a tribute should be...healing, loving, pathways to joyful living, and how even the most painful memories make us stronger somehow. Reply

Anonymous Prescott, AR/US July 1, 2012

Attitude What a beautiful attitude toward life and toward death. Reply

Anonymous 07446, nj...bergen June 19, 2012

dads' wisdom
like me, he must have been a tough guy.... Reply

gilah haifa, israel June 18, 2012

you story is really toucing. i am happy for you to have such good memoreis of your father. These memories will surely be with you forever ,strenghtening you and helping you deal with things you will come across in life. I wish you will not experince sorrow or pain any more/ Reply

Shoshana Shprinze MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA June 18, 2012

My dear Ariella, It seems we all have our very own mission in life, some not knowing what that may be until it finally hits you when you least expect it to then everything appears so clear and you pursue your purpose and very being in this world to full fill your Mitzvot before returning to our maker sfter all "The only thing you take with you and leave behind is YOUR MITZVOT". Your mission is to reach out and to help empower women both physically and spiritually through your martial arts classes and inspirational writing which today has touch my very deep essence as
" IT'S MY FATHER'S 2ND YAHRZEIT" Before the Coming of Moshiach, there are many miracles, but sadly we tend to overlook or not even acknowledge or see the little daily miracles! My miracle today was that I received your Article FOR THE 2ND TIME, and in particular TODAY! the words you said "I tried to extract as much wisdom and guidance from him as possible." should be a message to all to re evaluate our lives and missions Reply

Natana Pesya Kulakofski Nahariya, ISRAEL June 18, 2012

If You Weren't My Daughter ,,,,, The nicest thing anybody ever said to me was said by my dad just before making one of his annual trips to Florida for the winter:
"If you weren't my daughter, I'd want you for a friend,"
This yud-aleph Tammuz marks his seventh yahrtzeit.
May his wonderful soul have be elevated in Gan Eden. Reply

Jerry Neuburger Chappaqua, New York June 18, 2012

Thanks For Your Wonderful Article. Thank you so much for your beautiful recollections of your father. Your thoughts were eloquently stated and magnificently composed. They made me think of my own father who has also passed. Many thanks. Reply

Lynn Boise, Idaho June 18, 2012

thank you I just wanted to thank you for touching my day...perhaps my life, with your beautiful story. What a legacy your dad has left! As one who is a cancer survivor, I admire how your dad handled that part of his life too. It truly is beautiful, that though he is not here on earth now, he is still passing on his wisdom and the light he had. Thank you so much. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma June 17, 2012

O J This is beautiful & I will never drink orange juice again without attaching this to your father and his love!

I am sorry he died of cancer, wasting away, as you described the initial shock of seeing him. His soul, his spirit was great and he knew what matters and taught his children well.

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful Dad so how wonderful to read this now at the Guayacil Airport this particular day, Father's Day! Reply

Raizy gush etzion, Israel June 17, 2012

touching story Hey Sunny,
long time I havent seen u, miss our Bat Ayin days! thanx for posting the story of your dad! u r awsome! Raizy Iskowitz of
Bat Ayin:) Reply

Anonymous cincinnati, ohio USA June 16, 2012

elevation Ariella
my father passed away on Shavuos
I was comforted reading your article
may my father and your father have an
all the best
Yehuda Rothenberg Reply

Anonymous June 14, 2012

Baruch Dayan HaEmes Dar mrs levy
Your father seems like a wonderful man. I
Hope for the best. May g-d bless you.
With love and admiration. Reply

izzy June 14, 2012

May his soul have an elevation ... and may you be reunited with him again very soon with the coming of Moshiach! Reply

Deborah drums, pa June 14, 2012

TY- Thank you for eloquently sharing your story. It touched my heart. especially the words you said "I tried to extract as much wisdom and guidance from him as possible." As I felt the same way about my Mother ( I know you speak of your father, but it touched me as if I was reading about my mother's passing). Also thanks much for these words of wisdom “Your words are my inheritance. I’m going to embrace them forever.” was comforting, as I still grieve my Blessed Mother's passing... (may she be bundled in the bundle of life and rest in the Garden of Eden) Reply

Anonymous anywhere , usa June 13, 2012

Yiur dad It seems we had the same dad. Reply

Shellie Karno Wolf Chicago, IL June 13, 2012

Your Father His wise words are an inspiration to many. Thank you for sharing, I am forwarding this on to my son. Reply

Amy Helene jerusalem, Israel June 13, 2012

Daddy,Berkey ben Mosha My dad never recovered from a stroke to know that I came to be with him. I miss him.always. Reply

Anonymous Johannesburg, South Africa June 13, 2012

Embracing Dad's Wisdom How beautifully written. Reminded me of my very special Dad who left us 6 years ago after also fighting cancer. Thank you. Reply

Susie and Bob Chicago June 12, 2012

Your Dad Dear Sunny,

We were blessed to visit your Dad as he was typing his letter to you all. He was trying to say it all, he said, his eyes--yes--smiling.

You've inherited both your parents' gifts for
writing, living and brightening the world. Keep on; you've brightened Father's Day for all of us with this one.

Love, Susie and Bob, Chicago Reply

Gil Richland, Ms June 12, 2012

Memories I can only hope and pray that the legacy I leave my family will be one of a pleasant learning Ruach(spirit)
Since I cannot really see myself in an "afterlife", I can only wish that my family's memories and thoughts of their Dad will live on after I've gone! Reply

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