June 2007, my wife Rachel and I attended the wedding of an old friend in Niagara Falls, New York. He was a friend that we were both close to in high school that kind of drifted off as we moved forward with our lives. We were happy to attend, along with a number of our close friends; at the time both current and from days gone by. There were a number of delays through the wedding including a short power failure which caused a major delay in the food preparation.
As the hour was getting late our friends had started to make the journey home to Toronto. As we were beginning to think of leaving we were stopped by one of the grooms close friends. He begged us to stay longer, so that we could make the bride and groom happy on their wedding day. How could we turn down such a request?
On the way back to Toronto that night we were on a long dark stretch of highway. Suddenly, there was a large thud. Both my passenger tires blew out. The front tire was just damaged but the rear tire had a large hole on the inner wall bending the rim. It was a lot more dangerous than a standard blowout.
Within seconds a tow truck pulls up and offers to drive us home for $250. If we didn’t agree, he would call the police and they would order a more expensive tow. I called Kia Roadside Assistance. They said I wasn’t covered because I hit something and would not offer any assistance. The OPP showed up within minutes and told the tow truck driver to scram. Apparently, he was having a slow night and was trying to drum up some business. We were near an off ramp, so the police escorted us to a parking lot at the bottom of the ramp and after staying for a few minutes for us to get our bearings, left us to our own devices. We had a pay as you go phone, with the minutes quickly running out. The gas station within walking distance had telephone cards but they didn’t have the key to unlock them. We also didn’t have access to enough money in order to get ourselves safely home.
At the end of the night, my Dad managed to get my car added to Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance for a mere $67. A friend came out in the middle of the night to get Rachel home, as there would not be room in the tow truck. She was also the only one level headed enough to deal with the stress on problems as the night went on.
There is another chapter to this story that we kept a secret. Rachel’s body had begun to show the physical symptoms of a pregnancy. As we knew this was impossible, we tried to ignore them. We also wouldn’t trust pregnancy tests because the cycle Channah was conceived; her Beta test was so low that if we had not delayed the test by a day, it would not have shown up. Rachel was pretty shaken up from the accident and began to bleed heavily. The pregnancy was lost. We decided the news of the loss wasn’t worth sharing. Even sharing this information with new fertility doctors was up for debate. We feared that it would make them more reluctant to offer treatment.
There is a Jewish concept that if you live the way God wants you to, he will protect you. If you are in the middle of performing such a task that God provides a special protection to allow you to complete the task. That was what we had been doing that night. That night was our reality hit that the concept cannot be taken at face value.
We decided to turn the outcome into a positive. We immediately went back into fertility treatment until we went broke in the middle of our last cycle. The doctor knew it was our last shot and tried to preserve the cycle even after it should have been called off. Had the pregnancy or the fertility treatments worked, there is a good chance it would have delayed our move to Israel.
Gabi was also a natural pregnancy that we were told could never happen. While Rachel lived in fear, I was convinced nothing could go wrong with the pregnancy. When Gabi died from a true knot in the umbilical cord, I was comforted by reading about how at some point down the road (usually about 2 years with another baby) that I would come to understand the purpose of Gabi’s loss. I would find some meaning in it. The morning Rachel didn’t wake up that belief was shattered.
There is another Jewish expression that God provides the cure before he delivers the sickness. What if I have been looking at Gabriella Galit’s life in the wrong way? Rachel developed a bunch of medical problems during the pregnancy. What if they were going to come about with or without the pregnancy? What if her death was already coming? Gabi’s life and death gave me a number of skills to cope with Rachel’s death. From the shifts in our friends and support network to lessons I learned attending therapy with Rachel and carrying 95% of the load in doing my best to run a household.
Gabriella is a play on my Mother’s Maiden name. Her Mother was a Holocaust Survivor. Her Father had been a cook in the Russian army. He liberated my Grandmother from the Concentration Camp and nursed her back to health. My Grandmother had her Husband and 3 year old son killed. After knowing each other for only 3 weeks were married and rebuilt their lives. Galit comes from the Hebrew for waves. At times they can be calm and peaceful. At other times they can be strong and powerful bring change to world. If they get too strong they can even bring destruction and devastation.
The loss of Gabi was devastating to the point that Rachel could not carry on. The loss of Rachel, my wife of almost 15 years was a heartbreaking tragedy. The important thing in life is not what is put on your plate. The important thing is making the best of what you have and being an upstanding moral people. In the face of tragedy we must be able to rebuild.