I’m worried.

Really worried.

A close friend of mine has been fighting breast cancer for nearly five years. It seems like her cancer is winning the battle.

I found out last week that Rivka was hospitalized. Her health had been deteriorating, but for years she has overcome horrific challenges—lesions were knocked out in her liver and even her brain.

Now, however, the cancer has spread more, and the pain was too intense for her to manage at home.

For years she has overcome horrific challengesHow could this be? Rivka, even when undergoing treatment, kept on go, go, going. I knew I could count on meeting her at an early morning celebration, or finding her among the last to leave at a wedding or party.

She continued teaching, swimming, caring for her family, and participating in community activism despite days spent receiving chemotherapy, nights often restless.

Last year I went to a demonstration supporting Har Choma, Rivka’s neighborhood in the south of Jerusalem, built over the 1967 “Green Line.” It was cold and rainy. I felt like truly righteous for shlepping from out of town to the demonstration. But there was Rivka, despite a bad cold. She had bundled up and forced herself to go, feeling compelled to be there. She was the righteous one.

Rivka felt compelled to share her story, and inspire others. She blogged her way through her treatments, offering philosophy and humor. She inspired scores of readers around the world. She always signed her blog, “With love and optimism.”

So I was optimistic. I followed her lead. I knew she had serious challenges, but she seemed to overcome them one by one. However, since Rivka’s hospitalization I have been really scared for her. When I visited her in the hospital, she was so very medicated that she slept for the entire day. Formerly robust and round-faced, she had become thin and pale.

Her husband told us that two weeks ago the doctors had given them “the talk.” I dared not ask him just what that meant. He spoke of alternative treatments which were considered, but at this point were not viable. He spoke of his concern for his children, and himself, leaving unsaid, “after Rivka is gone.”

This past week I have been experiencing “high anxiety” almost constantly. I visit the hospital when I can. I check Rivka’s blog for updates posted by a friend, and when there is no update I call the woman who is the most in the know. I fret, although I know that won’t do any good. I pray a lot, hoping that will do some good.

This morning we got a message that an old friend of my husband’s from Harvard had passed away. Shaindy, a mother of eight, had lost her long battle with cancer, and was being flown from New Jersey to Israel for burial. We, of course, went to the funeral.

I fret, although I know that won’t do any good. I pray a lot, hoping that will do some goodThe burial home was packed to overflowing. Shaindy was an extraordinary woman—a scholar, a teacher, an artist, an exemplary wife and mother. The eulogies made me sorry I had not met Shaindy myself. They recounted her kindness, her grace coping with pain and adversity, her love of others. I felt so swept up in the stories and accolades of Shaindy, I was released from my fears for Rivka.

Shaindy’s teenage son recalled that at the end of Shaindy’s life, the machines she was hooked up to beeped louder and faster, as her blood pressure dropped lower and lower. Surrounded by her family members, many of them, understandably, broke down crying. Shaindy’s husband, however, felt the Shechinah, G‑d’s presence, in the room, and said in a loud, clear voice the words we say at the end of Yom Kippur, “Hashem, hu ha-Elokim”—The L‑rd is G‑d.

Of course. Life and death, and everything in between, are all in G‑d’s hands. He’s the One in control.

I felt an overwhelming sadness for Shaindy and her family. Yet, her husband’s words allowed me to let go of my fears for my friend Rivka. Yes, I will continue to pray and check for updates on her situation. I plan to visit her in the hospital tomorrow.

But I am going to keep my fears at bay. I have decided to give them over to G‑d.

Postscript: Four days after Shaindy’s funeral, we received word that Rivka had been called home by her Maker. She passed away Friday morning and was buried in Jerusalem Saturday night. One thousand people gathered to accompany Rivka on her final journey.

Rivka's blog, “Chemo and Coffee,” chronicles the last years of a remarkable woman, and includes comments by friends after her passing. At the end of the blog, there is a request from her family to continue praying, as is the Jewish custom, for the memory of Rivka bat (daughter of) Yishaya.

In Rivka’s memory, a new gemach (charity organization) has been set up to provide nursing mothers with high-quality breast pumps. Even though Rivka is not in this world, she continues to inspire us to do good. May her memory be for a blessing, and as the Jewish custom states, may her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.