Tears of Gratitude

Artwork by Saugus resident and artist Naomi Young. Courtesy photo

By Naomi Young, Saugus Community Contributor


We were introduced and shook hands, “I’ve seen you before,” I said, “No I’ve never been here before,” she answered me smiling. She has one of those familiar faces, the kind that you’re so sure you’ve seen before.

Dina, a mother of seven and a rebbetzin (a rabbi’s wife) came to tell our community how Yitzy, her husband of eighteen years was her first and only love. She knew she was going to marry him from the first time she saw him. She liked his energy that could fill up a room and his smiling eyes. Yitzy is a rabbi, a teacher, a chaplain, a counselor, a dancer and a musician. Whatever he does and wherever he goes, he knows how to communicate with people on their level, he just has that talent.

One day Yitzy told Dina that his tongue felt heavy, later it was his legs and soon it was his left arm too. By his fortieth birthday Yitzy was struck by ALS. But it did not stop him. As long as his pointer was working he could operate his wheelchair and a computer. He refused to cancel his 41st birthday with a celebration with many of his friends.

Still with a smile on her face Dina tells us about their difficult times, yet how somehow, Yitzy continues to be a lightning rod for people. Visitors would go in his room intending to make him feel better and came out feeling energized and inspired by him.

Today he has a special computer that can read the movements of his eyes so he can continue teaching and writing music, thus keeping his song alive.

“I’ve been promoted,” he told Dena. “I used to be a Rabbi of a few hundred people and now I touch thousands.”

One hundred people visit Yitzy in his room every week studying and reading from the Torah with him. His body is pretty much gone but not his soul. He has that spark in his eyes that is contagious. It lights a spark of hope and faith, love and kindness in others. Somehow the world is a more beautiful place with these two people in it. Still with a wise smile, Dina tells us to overcome our obstacles just like in the story of Passover when we came out of Egypt (mitzrayim is sharing the same root word in Hebrew as metzarim- limitations), how dealing  with our own obstacles and overcoming limitations leads to finding our freedom. “We all have to go through pain”, she says “but it’s our suffering that we can turn into a purpose.” And purpose she found, speaking in public, sharing their story in spite of her stage freight.

It’s only when she hit rock bottom that she discovered her inner strength, that she could teach herself to be a strong role model for her children. She decided to confront her fears in ways that she never thought she could. And she persevered and came to share her videos of daring adventures with Yitzy, bringing the outside world to his small room.

“May the tears you shed are tears of gratitude” she says lowering her eyes. “I only regret that I did not feel as grateful a week ago when it was better than today, and where would I be without my faith in G-d? Dina wants to write a book called: “ALS = A Love Story.” Theirs is an inspiring story of love and sharing the light. Some people touch our lives just by being there. Izzy’s light is shinning brighter than ever.

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