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8 Lessons I Learned from My Friend, Rivky Berman

8 Lessons I Learned from My Friend, Rivky Berman

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During the 29 years that Rivky (Deren) Berman lived with Bloom syndrome, she inspired those who knew her (and even those who did not) with her zest for life, deep faith and positive attitude. Even though she passed away in June of 2016, her legacy of joy and love live on.

The following was written by a friend on the day after Rivky's death:

Dear Rivky,

Many people come and go in our lives, and we don’t know why G‑d placed them there at that time. You came into my life at a crucial point in my high school years, and I cherished our friendship. When I heard of your passing, I was reminded of the fun times we shared and the many life lessons I learned and will continue to learn from you.

There is a G‑d running the world. One of the sayings I have ringing in my ears is hearing you say: “If G‑d gave it to you, He knows you can handle it.” You truly believed this. No matter what pain you may have been in, you would say “I can handle it because G‑d believes in me.” Countless times you reminded me that “everything is for the best. Hashem knows what He is doing. Leave it up to Him.”

Have fun. No matter what the challenge was, you would look at the bright side and have an incredibly positive outlook. You made people laugh, smile, and you knew how to have a good time. Your sense of humor lightened the mood and lifted everyone’s spirit. Your laughter simply brightened the room. You had this energy that everyone was drawn to. Your zest for life radiated from within your soul.

“Everything ends up OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” The first time I heard this quote from you was when we were walking in Jerusalem’s Old City, and we passed by the Hodaya Jewelry store. Entering the shop, we were greeted by an array of fine jewelry. Overwhelmed by the enormous selection, I sat down on the cushioned chair in the center of the room. You picked a ring off the shelf, sat down next to me and said you knew exactly what you wanted written on your ring. You had them translate it into Hebrew and fit it on the ring. I remember I made you repeat the quote several times until I fully understood and had it ingrained in me. You lived this quote. You knew that right now, it may not seem OK, but it will be. This is not the end. There will be brighter times.

Never give up. Although we were in different seminaries during our year in Israel, we periodically made time to spend Shabbos together. One Shabbos, there was a rabbi who came to farbreng with the girls on Friday night. The hour was getting late, and I asked you if you would like to return to the dorm. Not wanting to miss out on the learning and spiritual high, you said no. It was past 3 a.m. when the singing quieted down and the gathering came to a close. Everyone was tired, and there was still a long walk up the hill back to the dorms. We all walked back together. You were gasping for breath, but you kept going. At times, we gave you a boost, but then you insisted on walking on your own. This was just one of many examples of how you lived a life of perseverance. From skiing down the slopes during the “Kids of Courage” ski trip to arranging events as part of your shlichus, you persevered. I am inspired by how you lived an incredibly independent life, full of giving and encouragement to others.

Cherish your family. Your family always came first. You shared your strong love for your family with all of your friends, updating us with the latest pictures of your nieces and nephews. The strong bond you had with each family member kept you strong throughout your whole journey. One night when I visited you in the hospital, your mother was sitting there next to you. I was in awe of the love and special connection between the two of you. The tight bond that I witnessed in the hospital room is something I will always remember.

Be thankful for what you have. Never did I hear you complain. Never did I hear you wish you were someone or something else. Rivky, the reason why you were so happy and always with a smile was because you were happy with what you did have. You looked at what you did have and not what you didn’t. You didn’t focus on your limitations.

Keep in touch with friends. You weren’t only a good friend because you were caring, warm, sincere, fun and a great listener, but because you were so good at picking up the phone and calling a friend, or emailing and texting them. You let people know you were thinking of them. It was those small gestures that made everyone feel good. Even with all your challenges, you thought about your friends.

Give. You gave whatever you had. You gave of your time—to listen, lend a hand and be there. You made a point to attend friends’ weddings and to share in their happy occasions. No matter the burden, you went. You gave the best blessings. Your blessings came from the heart, full of love for whoever was the recipient. You gave words of encouragement. For anyone who needed their mood lifted, you were there. You had a way with words that would put people at ease. You had such as strong connection with Hashem that when you talked about G‑dliness, everyone felt it because you emanated what you believed, and that is the greatest gift you gave us all.

Rivky, there are no words to express how thankful I am that you were part of my life.

Thank you for teaching me how to live a life full of faith, love and kindness.

With love,
Devorah

Devorah Lustig collects stories of Divine Providence. Email her to share your stories of Divine Providence.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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