A Letter to an Ailing Friend

It’s hard to write a story about someone else without injecting yourself into the story. But I feel compelled to write about this: for my mother, for those alone in the hot zones, in hospitals scared to death, and to those who are close to death.

For the candy man in a New York City hospital room alone in and for his wife who prays at home in isolation. Know the candy you offered was just candy to some, but for some like me, it offered a reprieve from our childhood hardships and sadness. You weren’t just offering Lifesavers; you were unwittingly saving young lives. (In the interest of full disclosure you didn’t offer Lifesavers—they weren’t kosher—but I thought it was a good line.)

As you lie in bed alone, I want you to know although you never had your own children, you helped raise many. There were the lentils, the kosher M&M’s—and, yes, they are kosher now. There were the aspirin candies, the lollipops, and the dearth of other treats I have forgotten about. Oh! And the Peanut Chews!

But more than the candy, it was the moments when we were real young sitting on your lap, and as we got older the moments sitting beside you. It was candy you offered, but sanity, love, and safety were the true treats.

Then there was that time of year, Simchat Torah, the giving of the Old Testament that you truly raised your game. There were the big suckers and the candy apples offered, not just to the young but there was always a candy for my mother and her dry mouth. She was your close friend, how close I didn’t realize until a certain fog was lifted from my own life.

You instinctively knew which one of your children needed extra candy, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hadn’t seen you in years and sadly, for a while, I had switched the type of candy I consumed and changed the people I sat by for the “comfort” and “love” that I desperately sought. I was newly sober when I saw you again at a family event. I remember the massive smile you had on your face. What I didn’t know was that you and your wife were confidants of my mother’s throughout my struggles, always giving her all the support (and candy) she needed. What I also remember was there was no judgment, no questions, just a silent welcome back. It was never “Oh, Yehuda,” it was always, “Ohhhh, Yehuda.”

It’s been more than 22 years since that day, and we have seen each other only a handful of times. I just want you and your wife to know, you have raised many children, some more difficult than others, and it takes the most special of people to offer the more difficult more candy.

I know many a kid has come in between the time you helped me and today, but just know that all your children are praying for you right now, and it is imperative that you get better because we both know there is so much more candy that needs to be given.

Your name in English means life, you have enriched so many, saved so many, and we in turn at this moment are praying for yours. L’Chaim!

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