It started off as a normal Shabbat evening. I lit my candles, and when my husband returned from synagogue we enjoyed the Shabbat meal. After I cleaned up, I suggested to my husband that we go for a walk.

Our building doesn't have any hallway lights that stay on continously, so we walked down the dark staircase from the second floor carefully, but I guess not carefully enough. One minute I was walking and talking and the next minute I was tripping over my feet. I missed the bottom step, landed flat down, and broke my wrist. My whole body was in shock.

I broke the wrist on my right hand, my dominant hand And so my nightmare began.

I broke the wrist on my right hand, my dominant hand. The doctor said that I did a "great job" and after setting the bones, he placed my arm in a massive, bulky cast just below my elbow. Sticking out from the cast were five very swollen fingers. I was a mess. There is very little I can do with my left hand. My husband became chief cook and washer. I was totally dependent on him for everything. I felt useless. My greatest fear for years had been to be dependant on someone and not be able to look after myself. My fear became my reality.

My daughter was upset that I didn't let her cook for us or come and help out with the household duties. My husband tried to explain my fear to her, but I don't think she understood. She said I was stubborn. Maybe, but this is who I am.

I've worked in a retirement and nursing home for many years. I've met so many wonderful, vibrant people, who slowly evolved from being totally independent to totally dependent. One of the residents was my mother-in-law of blessed memory.

Here was a lady, a very proud lady, who did volunteer work all her life. She belonged to different Jewish organizations and was always ready to lend her hand. Everyone knew that if you were stuck, you could call on Toby.

My mother-in-law went from living in a very nice retirement apartment, looking after herself, baking cakes and mandelbrot for her grandchildren, to living in the nursing home. As time passed, she needed more and more nursing assistance.

One day, the director of the home, called and said that she wanted to speak to me about my mother-in-law. She told me that the nurses were complaining that my mother-law had become very heavy and it was difficult for them to take her to the bathroom. They wanted to use a mechanical lift, but in order to do this we had to buy her special clothes that left the back side opened. My reply to her was that "never in a million years" would I allow her to lose her dignity.

The director argued that since she is in a wheelchair all day, no one would know. I said that her knowing was enough for me.

What does all this have to do with my broken wrist? Well, I hadn't thought about this story in years, but when I needed personal help getting dressed, having my food cut, even asking my husband to wash my hair and cut my toenails, my fear of losing my independence hit me again.

Do we see ourselves as getting old and useless?There is a saying, "There is nothing to fear, but fear itself," and it is very true. Each one of us relates to our fears in a different manner. Some cope, others don't. I couldn't cope. For me, losing my independence and having to rely on others, even my husband and children, made me feel sick and useless. All I could do was sit around and watch. This is not me.

But my situation made me wonder: Why do we so fear losing our independence? Why is it so hard for us to accept help graciously from family members or neighbors? Do we think others will look down on us? Do we feel like we're a burden on our loved ones? Do we see ourselves as getting old and useless?

And what about the caregiver? As Jews, we teach our children the mitzvah of helping a friend in need. We teach them how to comfort and this lesson grows in adulthood whether the help is a one time thing or long term. Our children have the mitzvah of honoring their father and mother, kibbud av va'eim. Many a child has looked after dependent, elderly or sick parents. Refusing to settle parents in a nursing home, children rearrange their family home to accommodate the grandparents. I have heard the following statement many times. "When I was growing up my parents had the responsibility to look after me. Now that the tables have turned and they are sick and I have the opportunity and responsibility look after them."

Losing one's independence, even if only temporarily, is a difficult situation. Yet as I have reluctantly learned, it gives others the ability to give back to you, and it allows you to see the blessings in your life through those who come to your aid.

Fortunately, my loss of independence was temporary. Six weeks later, the cast was removed. I am now in physical therapy, and hopefully I will once again be the one my family depends on.

But had it not been for my situation, I don't know if I would have recognized that allowing yourself to receive from others, and specifically from those you love, is truly an act of giving as well.