The scene was not completely unfamiliar to Sarah.

A room with white walls, the familiar beeping noises of the monitors and IV drips, and, of course, the sterile smell of any public-health setting. But this time, there was a part of the picture that Sarah was completely unacquaintedThe situation has worsened with: her grandmother. Sarah’s grandmother, her Bubby, lay in the bed propped up by pillows, looking weaker than she had ever seen her. The grandmother who into her 80s had volunteered at local organizations and synagogues, and had always had an open house to friends and relatives.

But now, Bubby lay in bed, and for some reason, it didn’t seem too likely to Sarah that Bubby would ever escape this bed and return to normal life again. Sarah’s Bubby was 90 years old, and a few months earlier had been diagnosed with a blood disease that had necessitated blood transfusions. The situation had worsened, and before Sarah traveled off to camp, she felt the need to see her Bubby again, aware that it might be the last time.

While Sarah’s appearance generally seemed pleasant and happy, inside her mind she suffered from OCD attacks—obsessive disturbing thoughts that she was unable, or at least she thought was unable, to get out of her head. At the time, she had no concept that these obsessive thoughts were actually a genuine mental-health condition. Her most constant fear was the fear of death, of not existing, of time going on and just not being there to see.

She believed in the World to Come, but in the thrust of an OCD attack, it still didn’t always help her to escape her racing mind. The thoughts would come to a crescendo as she would try to fight them off one by one with calming images. The cycle would begin and end, again and again, as if they were running after her, tormenting her, not leaving her alone, when all she wanted was for her mind to quiet down. These obsessive thoughts added an extra component to her visit to her Bubby. Here she was facing that which she was so afraid of—death, dying, someone who was close to that place.

Sarah and her Bubby—even though their age gap spanned over seven decades—were very, very close to one another. She frequently visited Bubby over holidays and called her on the phone almost every day. Bubby’s mother and father had moved from Europe to New England in the early 1900s. Bubby was born in 1920—a first-generation American—to a family that put much effort into stayingShe asked to speak with her Bubby alone. Just the two of them. observant Orthodox Jews.

For Bubby and her mother, America did not mean giving up their Jewish observance; it meant continuing the light of Torah in America as well. But unfortunately, the goldinah medinah, the land of gold, had wreaked havoc on the religious life of the vast majority of Bubby’s family. Out of seven grandchildren, Sarah was the only Sabbath-observant grandchild. She represented the continuation of Bubby’s mother’s hopes and dreams for her children’s and grandchildren’s connection to the observance of Torah and mitzvot.

Bubby, like any good Jewish mother, had a sixth sense. She understood the words that were not spoken. As soon as Sarah walked into the room, Bubby said:

“Don’t cry ziskeit [sweetie]. There is a beginning and an end, and then another beginning.”

Sarah, at that time just 17, did something that even she herself did not expect to do. She asked to speak with her Bubby alone. Just the two of them. Those moments were some of the most intense of Sarah’s life.

“Bubby, all I really want is for you to dance at my wedding—to give you so much nachas,” said Sarah.

Sarah knew that Bubby had suffered tremendous pain from the assimilation of some of her children. This was a pain that she kept to herself, always focusing on the positive, but a real pain nonetheless. To be at the wedding of a religiously observant grandchild when others had intermarried would be a tremendous comfort for her.

Bubby reassured Sarah that even if she would not be there physically, her neshamah, her soul, would be there; she would be there spiritually. She said to Sarah that sometimes she would lie in bed and wonder how could it be that her youngest grandchild would give her the most Yiddishe nachas? It was a strange turn of events, but it was true.

Even in her last days, Bubby was thinking of the religious growth of others in her family who had grown further from Torah Judaism. She said to Sarah:

“A Jew is never too far away to bring them back. It is the little steps that count. It is the little steps back to Hashem [G‑d] that matter. Always remember this.”

She directed Sarah to reach out to family members who were not as connected to the Torah and to help them to come closer.

Bubby told Sarah that the candlesticks she lit every Shabbat, which were from her own mother, would go to Sarah because she could trust that Sarah would light them every Friday night.

While Sarah’s obsessive thoughts and fears about death did notSarah’s obsessive thoughts did not dissipate into thin air dissipate into thin air, this conversation allowed her to somehow rise above them. After the conversation, Sarah gave Bubby a hug and kiss, and headed off to camp both aware and unaware of what might come.

Seven days later, Sarah received a call at camp from home. Bubby had died the night before. The funeral was going to take place the next day, and arrangements needed to be made for Sarah to find a way home.

Sarah’s Bubby had taught her in their parting conversation to let go of her fear of mortality and instead to embrace eternity. To Sarah’s grandmother, eternity meant the belief in the Next World, but it also meant the continuation of Torah and mitzvot in this world. Sarah would keep her Bubby’s flame of Torah alive through the lighting of her Bubby’s candlesticks each week.

She would keep alive the light of generations.