The Fighter

Artwork by Saugus resident and author Naomi Young. Courtesy photo

By Naomi Young, Saugus Community Contributor


Lechayim! To life! Shaking wine glasses in celebration of the good life. Sitting at a table that is covered with plates full of delicious foods, that’s how Eli lived his life. He would share his food and a good laugh with you, always loud with his raspy voice. Eli loved to dance like Zorba the Greek and be the life of the party.

With the philosophy of eat drink and be merry today because tomorrow you may not be able to, Eli celebrated life to the fullest. Everybody who knew him loved him.  You couldn’t help it, his zest for life was infectious.  If you were lucky to sip from the same cup of joy as his was, you too would have tasted the taste of laughter and that great passion for life.

From an early age Eli held life by its horns. One of eight children he had to learn to survive from an early age. As a survivor and a fighter he became a professional boxer. He traveled to represent his country many years ago when it was not a common thing to travel. He participated in the Olympic Games in boxing in Greece. He came home a champion decorated with medals and victories under his belt.

Eli was also a hard-working man. He worked as a driver for forty years at the same company providing for his wife Sima and for his six children. He was delivering dairy products to stores and supermarkets starting at two o’clock in the morning. His boss and coworkers young and old admired him and out of respect called him Boss.

Downtime for him was considered a waste of time. Whenever he could he would travel, treat himself and his wife to a luxurious health spa or travel abroad.  At the very least Eli would have a great dinner that he helped prepare. For fifty years he carried home bagfuls of fresh fruits and vegetables from the open market in Mahane yehuda in Jerusalem. He enjoyed seeing the plenty on his table. He also never forgot to bring his beloved wife flowers every Friday to welcome the Sabbath. Eli didn’t need to have a reason to celebrate. Just living another day was a good reason enough for him.

He’s weak, he must have a timeout. Wow! That was quite a devastating punch! He’s almost down but he’s fighting hard with every bit of strength he’s got. He’s almost with his last breath but he’s still standing. Against all odds, to everybody’s surprise he’s still standing! Everybody is cheering him on to remember his triumphant spirit. No, this is not one of the scenes from his fighting matches. This is Eli fighting two kinds of cancers in the past four years, one of them was the rarest of all, in his aorta. Special tools needed to be imported from the United States. Local doctors had no experience in doing such a risky operation, yet he survived the surgeries and continued to get treatments and get better. He was always optimistic saying I fought worse than this and I will beat this too. After being with him, thinking you need to support and encourage him, you were the one who came out more upbeat and uplifted from his relentless attitude of gratitude.

One morning I was saddened and shocked to learn of my brother in law Eli’s passing. He had succumbed to this awful disease.

Eli the survivor and the fighter finally lost the biggest fight of his life.

As Julius Caesar once said “Cowards die many times before their death; the valiant never taste of death but once.”  You see, Eli didn’t just work to live or just lived to survive, he truly lived until he died.  That’s a lesson we can all learn from his celebrations of life to the fullest because we only live once.

So instead of mourning your death dear Eli, I’m raising a glass of wine in honor of your life, your fights and your victories.

I’m not sure at all that you’re resting up there either. You’re probably sitting with all your loved ones around a table, having a feast, raising a glass or two and starting a mini party, but try to rest a little in between.

Lechayim! To life!





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