She rocked slowly in the hard seat beneath her.
I could tell that she was struggling with all the feelings hitting her at a frenzied pace. She wore sunglasses that I now know protected her from the pained and devastated feelings registered on her face. I sat down next to her to see what I could do for her. Although I was her sister-in-law, and it was the levayah of my father-in-law, I didn’t and couldn’t feel the same way she did. And in her current state, I wanted to help her in any way I could.
“Can I get you water?”
“How are you feeling?”
“Do you want me to call the doctor?”
I never went into labor naturally; I didn’t know what it looked like. But I could tell that she was dealing with great discomfort and trying to control things for as long as humanly possible.
She whispered, “I need you to email him. Tell him my contractions are around five minutes apart. But I’m not leaving until the end of the levayah.”
Oh, the visuals that raced through my mind at that moment.
Is she gonna stay through the whole levayah?
Will a baby be born in Shomrei Hadas?
I busied myself by composing an email on my phone.
“Hi, Dr. Herman! Not sure if you knew but we’re at the levayah of my father-in-law this morning, and Chani is having contractions but won’t leave until the end of the levayah. Help! M.”
He wrote back almost immediately, asking me for some details, and told me to tell her to leave as soon as possible. He’d meet her at the hospital.
At the same time, there were hespedim being said that spoke of the beautiful, giving person Binyomin Hirsch, z’l, was during his life. An honest man, a man of integrity, a hard worker, a devoted son, husband, and father who felt joy through the joy of his loved ones. A big man with simple and few needs.
Occasionally, I’d sneak a peek at my sister-in-law behind her sunglasses. Her eyes were shut and there were silent tears streaming down her face. Then I’d feel her tense up and I’d realize that a contraction would hit and she’d count her way through it and there would be calm for a bit.
“Tell her she has to leave.”
“Dr. Herman, she’s not going anywhere. She’s waiting until the last hesped. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s over.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of me was Adina, arranging for Hatzalah to be on call when the levayah was over.
As we stood up and they prepared my mother-in-law to tear kriah, she pointed to her pregnant daughter and said, “Chani first. She’s gotta go.”
Supporting her beneath her elbows, we led Chani out of the chapel and into the waiting ambulance where she was rushed to a local Brooklyn hospital.
She welcomed a baby boy 20 minutes later.
“Hi, Dr. Herman! Just wanted to let you know that Chani had a baby boy a few minutes ago. Mazal tov! M.”
Even in his death, my father-in-law wanted to be sure we’d have something to look forward to. A new baby, a boy to name after my father-in-law.
Oftentimes, I question the ways of G-d.
I struggled with the justification of taking such a young man who has only done good in his life. Only provided for his family and wanted to see happiness from his family as his payment for his hard work.
But maybe the z’chut of having a grandson born less than 24 hours after his death is that payment of being that exemplary person all of his life. Maybe we physical beings want what we want because we’re limited in our knowledge of what’s truly important.
We celebrated a beautiful bris on the morning after my husband and his family got up from shivah. It was highly emotional but also very beautiful. It was the balm needed for the wounded hearts of the Hirsch family.
It’s been four years since the death of my father-in-law and the birth of Chani’s son Binyomin Tzvi.
And Chani just had another baby, Sorah Malka, b’H.
I remember delivering our fifth child, more than positive that it would be a boy. But after Dr. Herman announced that it was a girl, and all the hoopla in the delivery room had subsided, I looked at Moshe and told him that I couldn’t believe that the one time I really truly meant to have a boy, for his father, to have a Binyomin Tzvi, we had our first girl, our Rosie. Of course, he shrugged it off and told me that he was thrilled to have our daughter at long last.
I want someone in the family to have a son, a Moshe. I want them to name a son after someone like Moshe. He’d grow up not knowing his uncle but would hear about him through our stories and memories of how Moshe impacted his family, his friends, and his community during the time he was allotted to exist on this earth.
Regardless, I’m thrilled to celebrate this birth with Moshe’s family. It will be the balm needed for the wounded hearts of the Hirsch family.
Malkie’s husband Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.