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Coping (or kind of not) with friend’s death

My friend died last weekend in his late 50s. He had pancreatic cancer; he did chemo and surgery and seemed like he’d still be around for a little while. Then he went into the hospital to drain some fluid and five days later, he was gone. This has hit me harder than anyone else’s death in my entire life. More than my grandparents, more than my great-grandmother who I loved dearly.

The funeral was yesterday. The Chabad rabbi presided. Among many other things, he mentioned they debated whether self-driving cars were allowed on shabbat, which is exactly what I would have expected. He was an extremely early drone adopter and apparently he flew a menorah over the whole town 10 or 12 years ago. My friend was this fascinating mix of completely secular and, maybe “Hasidic-curious” is the right term for it. He didn’t keep kosher or observe shabbat, but he was super-involved in his local Chabad.

To say he was an original is an understatement. He was born in the USSR with a very Jewish name and an inescapably Jewish look, so life was tough. He left for Israel in 1990 at age 23 with his then-wife and mother-in-law. He got thyroid cancer when he was 25 and lost hearing in one ear; he had part of his thyroid removed and it damaged one eye as well. Then his wife left him. So he just packed up and moved to the US. Pretty sure he showed up on a tourist visa and just started working, back when you could do that pretty easily. He got married again and had two kids. We became co-workers 15 years ago and he started working for me six years ago.

One of his defining features was that his English was…not good. But he embraced it. He heard me speaking Spanish to a coworker and he said “wow, you speak three languages.” (I also speak French.) I said “so do you!” He said “No, Russian and Hebrew. What else?” Uh, English? “Oh no, I don’t speak English.” We worked on his written English and then one day I realized this was all so hard because he was dyslexic. I asked him if he knew why he kept transposing things and he told me that numbers and letters had always flipped around on him. I said maybe he could go see a doctor about it. “What could doctor do? Cut off head?” (My in-laws are refuseniks and very similar to him; my wife calls this “very Russian humor.”) I don’t think anyone else ever knew he was dyslexic. People were really hard on him at work because of it.

I wrote a tribute to him online and five- or six-dozen colleagues past and present have weighed in with kind words. I sadly had to pack up his desk and bring a box of his possessions to his wife (he got divorced again a while back; she is his 3rd wife.) I printed out a bunch of photos of him and put them up in his empty cubicle. Somebody came by and left flowers and a little candle. I have a big sheet of paper up next to his desk for people to write things to his family, and I’ll bring it to them in a few weeks.

Longfellow wrote “into each life a little rain must fall.” My friend had more than his fair share of rain. And somehow, through all this, he was one of the most positive people I had ever met in my life. He explained that life was so awful in Russia, everything was an improvement, even if he was deaf or had cancer again.

submitted by /u/Typical-Car2782
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Source: Reditt