It was over seven years since I had seen her last. But as soon as we met up and hugged, it was as if we just spoke yesterday. Well, almost. We had a lot to catch up on...my seminary roommate and I. But we connected instantly. The closeness we shared was right back there; the moment we began talking we felt it.
There's something unique about someone you room with for close to a year when you're away from home, independent...and...vulnerable. Your roommate gets to see the parts of you that no one else in your seminary does. What you're like when you wake up in the morning, how you react to stresses, what you do when your shabbos plans fall through on Friday morning and how you deal with the disappointments you don't necessarily carry with you outside your dorm room. She also gets to see you when you're tired and hyper and silly and giddy and sad and tired and emotional and...did I mention tired? :) She honestly gets to see every part of you. Every emotion, every mood, everything.
It's kind of like a sibling.
The connection formed with my seminary roommates was unique. I got to Eretz Yisroel two and a half weeks after my younger brother, Shalom a"h was niftar. It was also a couple of days after my older brother got engaged. I was flying high, excited to be in the holy land, just as happy as everyone else...and showing off family pictures from my brother's vort to all who came to see. But inside, my heart was crying. I was holding a secret, a big, difficult secret in there.
I remember the shailos I had to ask during those first few weeks. I was in middle of my brother's shloshim. Was I allowed to watch a slideshow together with the rest of the seminary if there was music playing in the background? (I had to wear earplugs. And sit in the back-a little to the side-because an avel is not allowed to be part of a large group that is gathering together.)What should I do if I was studying with friends and they put music on? (That was okay because they didn't put it on for me. But it hurt because I knew I wasn't allowed to listen and the music was on and I loved it but I didn't want to hear it. And because I was carrying this heavy secret and I was sure that if these girls knew they'd never turn the music on when I was around.)
Then came the shloshim. With incredible bravery, I got up to speak in front of the entire seminary. I got sick that day and took off from class because I was so nervous, but I did it. I had to tell my roommates the night before-one who knew about it and one who was in total shock. We talked for a long time and comforted each other.
Throughout the year, my one close friend who was in my seminary was there for me when I needed. While the rest of the girls were complaining about how they missed their families, I was on a whole different plane. I missed my brother! I knew I wasn't seeing him again. My family? Of course, one never knows what will be, but I knew that when I get home at the end of the year, I'll get to see my family, alive and well. I didn't miss them with the same intensity as I missed my brother-who was in the olam ha'emes, who was in my thoughts and my heart...but nowhere else. Who I only remembered as someone who was. Who I could only talk about in the past tense...
When I saw my roommate for the first time in over seven years, when I gave her a hug and we connected so instantly, I was hit with a powerful feeling. It didn't shake me until later that night, but I realized how a person-to-person friendship is so much more meaningful. And so much more real. It's nice to talk on the phone and it's nice to text and chat and email...and even to think about someone in your thoughts...but when you see someone, when you can give them a hug, look into their eyes, hold their hand and squeeze it tight, you have something deeper. You have a real relationship.
And although I had not seen her in so many years, the moment we saw each other, we connected. The bond was still there. The soul connection was there. Her warmth and sweetness was there. She was still the same...inside.
And I know that when techiyas hameisim will happen (although I do not know when that will be...), when I see my brother once again, I will feel that same strong bond. The connection of siblings that is so strong. We won't have to talk that much. We'll just look at each other and I'll see his smiling face. I will feel his warmth. I will look into his eyes and we will connect.
It's a connection that never goes away. And although I can't text or chat, email or call him, he is in my heart and in my thoughts. We are still so very close...even though he seems so far away.
It's the day of his yartzeit that reminds me how much I miss him. It's this day that serves as a reminder to how temporary life is. How we must take advantage of our time here and appreciate those closest to us while they are still alive. Our children, our parents, our grandparents, our spouses, our friends. No one wants to look back one day and say how I wish I would have...Now's the time! You still can...connect, reach out, make up, open up, share, inspire, live and love.
And while I daven for the day when we will be reunited, I take the time to reflect on the messages of the day. On how this day inspires me to look at myself in a clearer mirror so I can work on myself to become better and stronger.
May the neshama of Shalom a"h ben Chaim Nosson whose 9th yartzeit is tomorrow, Wednesday, yud zayin av, have an aliya.
Shalom, I know you are looking from your special place on high and are so proud of your nephews who carry on your name. I know how much you would have loved to spend time with all of them and I daven that my Shalom Baruch, who never got to meet you, carry on your legacy and be as special as you. He is already hearing stories about you...and I hope and pray that one day it wont be just stories...that we will all be reunited together...and he will say...this is the Shalom you always tell me about!
To read about Shalom a"h and the story, click here, here and here.