There’s something about those tefillin straps. The methodical whirring sound of them wrapping round and around his arm, the clicking of the worn black boxes being opened and shut. Memories of being a little girl and my Dad homeI see him from afar as the heavy double doors swing shut from work on those rare occasions when he had off. It came together with a mood; the relaxed vibe of a man davening at home, preparing to spend the day with his family, with the smell of bagels and fried eggs wafting from the kitchen. He looked so strong and powerful in his tallit and tefillin. My strong Daddy.

Years later, the scene was picture-perfect; the tail end of August bringing with it a sunny yet refreshing morning. There are flower beds all around, and the 16th-floor deck gives a picturesque view of Downtown Toronto. I see him from afar as the heavy double doors swing shut behind me, echoing the dull pressing thud of my heartbeat. He is wrapping his tefillin with the relaxed vibe of a man preparing to spend the day off. Except today is the first day of the school year, and he is the principal. And he is spending his morning davening in the rooftop garden of Princess Margaret Cancer Center.

As I approach, I know there is no way I can hold it in, and my tears begin to fall as he hugs me like the little girl I once was; the little girl I felt like at that moment, with the weight of the tall downtown buildings on my shoulders, plus more. Why are you crying, he asks me gently? I’m OK, see? Come sit in the shade. My Dad, the patient, taking care of me. He looks so strong in his tallit and tefillin, with the determination of a man prepared to fight, yet with the resignation of one discovering that his life is not in his control. I know that very soon he will look very different. He alternates between davening and checking his phone as the school dean sends him pictures of students on their first day. This is normally his busiest day of the year—the day which no wedding could ever convince him to take off. G‑d is ironic.

There were many more tefillin days after that. At first, there were tefillin selfies as my Dad defied the stereotypical patient status and laid tefillin with every Jewish patient and doctor he could get his hands on. This must be why I am here, he said. He was full of energy and purpose, my strong Daddy.

Then there were days when he was wearing tefillin and sleeping because he couldn’t stay awake long enough to finish davening. Where did my strong Daddy go? Days when his hands burned, and I tried to help him put the tefillin away, only to discover how complicated they truly are. And to discover that the spirit of my Dad never really changed; through his weakness and half-asleep state, he carefully watched my every move as I struggled to wrap the straps around the boxes just so. Days of walking in to see him leaning against his hospital dresser during the Amidah—too weak to stand straight, days when I felt like I stepped into a private space as he davened and cried, oblivious to all Somehow, we got lucky else. And the days of trying to wake him up because it was almost sunset and I had to leave, and he hadn’t put them on yet. I knew that during those months, the strength he put in to do things like wrapping tefillin showed him to be stronger than he ever was.

There will be many more days. Somehow, we got lucky. Maybe it was the daily wrapping that did it. G‑d knows. There will be many days of a man wrapping tefillin straps at home, with the pace of a man who is in no rush, but a heavy heart because he truly has nowhere to rush to.

And slowly, there will be a man wrapping tefillin in shul once again, with a day of work ahead of him, wrapping with precision and purpose. And someday, there will be a man, wrapping tefillin with the anticipation of holding his first grandchild. A man wrapping tefillin on his day off, with the relaxed vibe of a someone preparing to spend the day with his family, and a little girl looking at her Zaidy in wonder, as she listens to the methodical whirring and clicking of the boxes and straps.