Aunt Rachelle

I recently spent 10 days in Israel. It has been 24 years since I have been back to Israel. But when we received news that our favorite aunt had taken a turn for the worse, I knew it was time to return to visit with her.
How to describe Aunt Rachelle? I have always wondered what it was like to be in a salon in Europe filled with fascinating people. Aunt Rachelle is the last great hostess and assembles the most interesting people- all who seem to have a special connection with her. And that is one of Rachelle's gifts- she makes each person feel like they have the inside track with her. Everyone is welcome at her house and every is greeted by the all time best hostess.
What is a wheel without a hub? All of us lucky people who call her "family" are wondering? For Rachelle has been in the very center of our family- at least as long as I can remember. And I know that there is no one that will be able to fill that spot. She is the fabulous cook- who has never thrown a left over away- it is somehow incorporated into the next dish. She is the confidant. A person who freely gives her opinion, and offers sound advice- whether you ask her or not. She has been a surrogate mother. Feeding my husband for the ten years while Dave was at Harvard, and stepping in when Alzheimers afflicted his mother at the age of 54. A fabulous grandmother- doting on all her grandchildren. A sage- always with an intelligent point of view on everything from the Talmud to the latest book she has read.
Now, she is dying of pancreatic cancer. So I did not hesitate for a second to get a ticket and I headed for Jerusalem fearing the worst. What did I find? A magnificent lady- who now probably only weighs 110 pounds if that- yet decked out in her finest housecoat, makeup and jewelry- since she has always loved fashion and is quite the clothes horse. And it is clear that she is very very ill, but she insisted on hosting us for dinners, and tea, and after Shabbat. And never was morose, or down, or self-pitying. How she does that I will never know. I found a lady who will not serve dinner or clear the dishes without a tray- and who still sees fit to take what is left of her energy and fill her house with people. As she told me entertaining is the best form of palliative care.
So it was fitting that all of us also not be sad around her. And I managed to hold it together until I left her house on the last day not knowing if or when I would see her again. And both my husband and I sobbed as we walked back to our hotel.
Aunt Rachelle did one last mitzvah (good deed) that she probably does not know about. She got me back to Israel, where I rekindled my love and attachment to the country. I am already thinking about my next trip back. I think that would please her.