I thought of you today, Randy. It has been a while since I thought of you, and about how quickly you entered and exited our life.

It’s dreary and rainy today, and it made me think about how I used to see you shuffling with your walker up the street, past our house, in the rain. I didn’t know you then, and I wondered what your story was, a young guy, probably not much older than me, so seemingly disabled. You always called out “Hello” in your slow and halting voice when you saw me and the kids sitting in the yard. Sometimes when I was driving in the car I would see you and ask if you wanted a ride, but you always declined.

I wondered what your story was, a young guy, probably not much older than me, so seemingly disabledIt wasn’t until the holiday of Sukkot that our family got to know you. As Chabad emissaries in an upscale Long Island community, our house was the only one in the neighborhood with a sukkah. I remember the night we met you well. It was a lovely warm Yom Tov evening, and we sat in the sukkah with our guests, singing and enjoying the holiday. You stopped in and said, “I’m Jewish also.” We invited you in, and over dessert we learned your story. You lived a typical existence as a college kid, until one day your life was radically changed forever in a diving accident. Thank G‑d, you survived, but were left with dramatic brain damage and physical disabilities. It turns out you lived in my neighborhood because you were in supported housing for people with special needs. I saw you walking every day because you had a job sorting books at the local library, a job that you loved and to which you happily trekked over a mile each way.

What really amazed me was your total lack of bitterness over your situation, and your complete acceptance of your life. It’s hard to describe, but there was a certain serenity about you. In your old life, you were a college student with all the possibilities before you. Things became so different. But you didn’t see yourself as dependent, and you weren’t. You were a giver. After that Sukkot, you came around every Shabbat dinner, and you always brought a bottle of kosher wine or kosher cookies. Chanukah came, and you brought thoughtfully chosen gifts and cards for my kids. That really touched me. You soaked up Judaism in our house, learned the blessings, wore a kipah, and even came to synagogue a couple of times. It was as if your soul was waiting for the chance to absorb the Torah’s commandments.

Out of the blue, we got the call from your roommate, who notified us that you were in critical condition in the hospital. I get chills down my spine even now, thinking about it. A couple of days later you were gone.

Remembering you and your way of being brings me to a certain consciousnessYou had entered our life for those few short months, and left so quickly. It didn’t feel like enough time. However, it was so dramatically clear that there was a reason that our lives became intertwined towards the end of your life. As for me, I learned a lot from your courage, dignity, and above all, your deep inner happiness and capacity for giving.

At your funeral I learned that many others in our town were touched by your extraordinary life as well. I wish I could say that it has prevented me from complaining. At times, though, remembering you and your way of being brings me to a certain consciousness. It makes me cognizant of the many blessings that I have in my life, and of the blessing of life itself.

You were someone who accepted and embraced everything that G‑d gave you, and used challenges as a means of growth. On this Thursday evening, with my kids all tucked into bed, and typing in the sweet silence as I wait for my challahs to finish baking, I feel aware of my blessings. I hope that tomorrow, when we are in the final pre-Shabbat frenzy and everything is totally crazy and chaotic, that I can still hold onto that feeling.

I hope I can be like you. Randy, your memory should be a blessing. You are still with us at our Shabbat table.