I couldn’t believe it.

Just the night before, all the children and grandchildren were in our home in Jerusalem celebrating Chanukah. It is the one time of the year we always try to get everyone together, now that the families, thank G‑d, have all grown so much in number that we can’t all get together on Shabbat or Yom Tov.

Of course, there is always the inevitable discussion as to which day of Chanukah to have the get-together. Telephone calls and e‑mails fly back and forth, but it’s impossible to please everyone, and no matter what day we finally decide on, there is always at least one family who has to cancel something in order to be there, and others who just can’t make it.

This It’s impossible to please everyonetime someone had brought a chocolate fountain, and within a few moments everyone and everything was covered in chocolate. The screams of delight from the children, coupled with the shouts of horror from their mothers, made it a noisy but fun evening.

The next day, it all changed.

At 10 AM Jerusalem time, my brother-in-law phoned to say that my mother had passed away while sitting in her chair at the Rehabilitation Hospital in London. She was recuperating from an operation for a broken leg, and though she had been experiencing some occasional breathing problems since the operation, there had been no indication that anything was wrong, apart from her inability to walk. Her leg was healing very well medically, but my mother couldn’t put any weight on it, so she remained wheelchair-bound.

My sisters and I had taken turns being with her for two months during and after the operation, but that week she was alone, as her recuperation appeared to be progressing well, and we intended to return to England the following week to help her move to a nursing home.

It took a while until the nurse realized my mother was no longer alive. She had been sitting peacefully in her chair reading, the nurse said, but I’d guess at that time of day—early morning in London—she was probably praying, maybe even saying Hallel, which she loved.

But shocked and distraught as we were, my sisters and I knew why she had passed away. However, it was not something we could easily explain to the doctors or the hospital staff.

As I stared, unseeing, at the remaining brown marks on the wall and floor where we had yet to finish removing the chocolate stains, I marveled at how G‑d had fulfilled my mother’s final wish.

She had always had a “special relationship” with Him. She spoke to Him and about Him constantly. He was always with her, taking care of her, as she lived alone. However much she loved us all, she needed her independence and was determined to stay in her own home until her final day on this earth. He had protected her when two men broke into her small ground-floor apartment and simply fled, leaving her thankfully untouched. A few months ago, when emergency responders found her after a fall in her apartment when she had broken her leg, she appeared to be in no pain, although according to the volunteers this was totally illogical, as her leg was broken in several places.

But her inability to walk, and the size and layout of her apartment, meant it would be impossible for her to go back to the home she loved. The option of living with one of us was receding, since if her breathing problems didn’t improve she would need medical care 24/7. We were desperately searching for a nursing home that she might find acceptable, all the while knowing that it was an impossible task. There was nowhere she wanted to go other than back to her own apartment.

We dreaded telling her it was not possible. But when we eventually did, she appeared to accept it quite calmly. I guess she simply had other ideas. I can almost see and hear her talking to her Best Friend, who had never let her down.She simply had other ideas

And the only explanation was that He had heard her and fulfilled her final wish. She had gone peacefully and without pain, never having had to live anywhere other than her own home.

During my last conversation with her the previous day, she had mentioned how pleased she was that the visiting Chabad rabbi had found her (she was the only Jewish person in her ward) and lit Chanukah candles for her. I can picture her sitting by the candles, singing “Haneirot Halalu” and “Maoz Tzur” quietly.

The whole extended family now knows in advance what day of Chanukah our family get-together will be. My mother’s yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) brings us all together. We no longer have the chocolate fountain, because seeing one always reminds me of my mother’s last Chanukah. But on the fifth night of Chanukah, all of the Israeli branch of her family, numbering now—thank G‑d—more than 60, gather together to celebrate. And most important, my mother’s soul is elevated in heaven through the siyum (celebration after completing a unit of Torah study) that her great-grandsons make.