I recently was contacted by an Israeli woman who introduced herself as “another second-generation survivor.” Diane grew up in Phoenix, and her parents still live here. At her father’s request, she had come back to help move her parents into an assisted living facility. Her 82-year-old mother was increasingly losing her memory and depressed; she had seen psychiatrists and neurologists who gave her pills that only made her seem more out of it.
Diane’s father, almost completely blind but still a vigorous presence, is a firm believer in drugs and other conventional interventions. He really means the best for his wife but doesn’t know another way to handle her depression. It’s been a difficult time for them.
Diane said I could tell this story in her own words:
As I was packing my parents home I came across your book, The Dancing Healers. It immediately caught my eye in the midst of all the rest of that Holocaust literature that they’ve accumulated. When I got back to Israel and began to read it, I was touched by your personal biography. Many of the issues you raised, I have also had to deal with as a second-generation Holocaust survivor. I also identify with Native American culture and their spiritual path. I recently hosted a native healer from the Isleta Pueblo.
When I saw that you had personally inscribed the book to my mother “with warm appreciation and love on our shared journey,” I asked her if she remembered you. She said yes, and it struck me that perhaps I could ask you if you would see my mom. I’m terribly concerned about her, here’s a woman who has made sense of her life through telling her story to children and adults. Now, at the end of her life she can find no more meaning in it.
I’ve had many discussions with her over the years, and I know at the heart level she is a deeply spiritual person. She hasn’t expressed her spiritual life, says she can’t believe in God because of what happened to her and all the others in the Holocaust. On the other hand she is crying out for something at this time in her life, but so far it doesn’t exist for her.
I’ve told her and my dad together, to find somebody, a Rabbi, a Doctor, a Guru, somebody that she could really talk with. But with my being so far away, my father’s disbelief in these things, and my mom’s growing helplessness, nothing is getting done. Then your book jumped out, so I asked her if she would see you and she said yes. My father said he will take her if she really wants to go. Can you help me?
I wrote back and told her I would gladly see them and then called her parents. We spoke briefly, and her father in British-accented English provided his assessment of the current situation, and then I spoke to her Mom. We had a perfectly normal conversation: she told me about her forgetfulness and perpetual lethargy, but she didn’t share Diane’s sense that she was depressed. I told her I would be happy to meet with her if she’d wanted. When we looked at my appointment book, the first opening happened to be on my late mother’s birthday. I felt a chill run through me, and then I smiled as I felt my mama’s presence hugging me.
P.S. Stay tuned for the rest of this story next week.