When I was a little girl, I had an Uncle Hershey. Actually, he was my mother's first cousin, but I knew him as Uncle Hershey. I can still remember being five-years old, sitting on his lap, playing piano. Uncle Hershey and my mother were best friends. They were actually more like brother and sister than cousins. Maybe that's why I came to call him Uncle Hershey. Next to my mother, he was definitely the funniest person I knew. And the most fun.

My mother was there for him and he was there for her Over the years, I watched as they pulled practical jokes on each other, some of them so funny, anyone would be in tears, laughing. When times got rough, my mother was there for him and he was there for her and he was always there for both of us. Uncle Hershey, or "the Dummy" as we would call him because he was so easily fooled, was no fool. He was also, next to my grandfather, the only real father figure I had. My own father and mother were divorced and well, you can imagine the rest.

Uncle Hershey made me feel safe. I could always turn to him. I loved him desperately and he saw me through my youth, adolescence, and on. He had a warm and sly wit about him and was as cuddly as a teddy bear. He liked to be the boss of everyone as I used to say, and his enormous ego was oddly endearing and comical. My mother and he were stuck to each other, like glue. They were Bonnie and Clyde, Burns and Allen, Lucy and Desi. My mother always let him think he had the upper hand. That was part of the fun and as much as he was the voice of reason, he was also the voice of whimsy and nonsense. I trusted him with my life, my world, my children and I thanked G‑d for Uncle Hershey all the time. Especially when money was tight or I found myself in a jam. He always rescued me. That was one of his many jobs.

About four-and-a half years ago, my mother died. The night she was slipping away, in the intensive care unit, friends and family were gathered around the bed. One of my friends kept calling Uncle Hershey to rush to the hospital. He didn't get there in time. To be fair, during the last year or so of my mother's life, he tried to help her to the best of his ability. We all did, in our own ways. So many people loved her. She was a vibrant and passionate woman, full of humor and kindness. No one knew this better than me and my Uncle.

My husband, children and I were devastated by her loss. The fallout was terrible. Sadly, my uncle and I were left torn into pieces, separately and separated - for the first time. We lost her and it tore us apart from each other.

He just could not bear the pain of her death My first clue that something was wrong was when he didn't come to the cemetery. Then, he didn't come to the shiva, the mourning, which only lasted one day because the following day was Rosh Hashana. And then I didn't hear from him at all. Only much later did I realize that he just could not bear the pain of her death and that day, that terrible day.

I found myself angry with him. Where was he and why had he deserted me? I felt guilty about losing my mother and sometimes still do, thinking I should have done more for her. Maybe he was angry with me too? I didn't know. I do know that at one point I fired off an emotional email to him regarding some family matters and I really let him have it. The second after I pressed "send" on my computer, I regretted it.

Something was very, very wrong. All I felt was rage and betrayal and loss. I had lost her and now I had lost him. And he wasn't calling me back - for the first time in forty years.

And there were always reminders of him, as there were and always are reminders of my mother. All those jokes we pulled on each other; the secret code languages we made up just for fun. He was a part of me. Like my mother was a part of me. No matter how angry or hurt I was, I couldn't let him go. I couldn't not miss him. Even if… even if, I thought I was right and he was wrong. All I knew was something had terribly gone wrong and I didn't know how to fix it. Until today.

This morning I woke up and implemented my new exercise regime. After a light breakfast, I went on the treadmill, did some strength-training and then some stretching exercises. I am getting into the best shape I can for upcoming surgery, a double lung transplant that I need due to the same illness that took my mother. After my workout, I went downstairs, opened my computer and looked at my calendar. The first seder was coming upon us. I have plans to be with my Rabbi and his family. I remembered that last Passover, he spoke about our own personal exiles and how we must bring ourselves out of Egypt so that "next year may we meet in Jerusalem".

My relationship with my Uncle has been in exile My relationship with my Uncle has been in exile. This had gone on too long. Without doubt, without one flinch, I picked up the phone and called his office. When his secretary asked who was on the line, I told her to tell him it was his "long, lost niece". He picked up immediately. "Hello there..." "Hello back to you!" His voice was like a warm blanket. We talked about our children, our health and made plans to have supper the following week.

One phone call completely erased over four years of sorrow, anger and longing. It all simply vanished. We had finally met up again on the other side of the Sea of Reeds. We were soon to be on our way, as if we had never been separated.

When I was a little girl, I had an Uncle Hershey. And finally, again, I still do.