Miami Beach

How a 95 year old woman changed my life

I visited the Hebrew Home For the aged, a nursing home on Miami Beach. I went there with my family for the holiday of Chanukah, to bring joy to the hearts of the elderly people living there.

On that day we met a 95 year old, alert women known as Fryda Ligator. I would go the next 3 years looking up to her as a role model and taking care of her.

Every day, Fryda would read 3 different newspapers in different languages, she would listen to many republican talk shows and pray all of the days prayers and holiday prayers.

I would visit Fryda from 2-3 days a week and for a year, helped her celebrate the customary Shabbat Friday night meal.

When I would talk to her, I would learn about all of the politics and Israeli news as well as her life lessons.

On my third anniversary of knowing Fryda, which took place on the holiday of Chanukah 2010, my life had begun with the start of my first semester in college, so the pressure of life was spying on me, waiting to attack.

I had been planning my visits and thinking about what Chanukah present I should get for Fryda.

Fryda had a different plan, two weeks before Chanukah, she had stopped taking medication for her asthma and for a bump she had sustained on her foot.

Two days before Chanukah, paramedics wanted to take Fryda to the hospital because of her respiratory distress and (later I found out) an infection which had spread throughout her body from the leg wound.

In my opinion, Fryda was mentally prepared to go see G-d and wanted to feel the hurt of the world slip away. She went ahead and did something about it.

She tried to kill herself.

I went and stayed with Fryda for most of the days in the hospital and ironically, we ended up staying there the whole holiday of Chanukah.

This was my sign from G-d that he was going to take Fryda away from me very soon. ____

After spending Chanukah in the hospital, Fryda came back to the nursing home to find out that she could not read or hear very well anymore.

So, I would read her the daily Jewish Journal and sang to her some of the Hebrew songs we liked to sing on my Friday night visits.

In her mind, she had nothing else to live for, (not being able to listen and read) and when I think back, this was her way of saying that this would be all she could teach me in life and that I was going to have to let her go.

When Fryda came back from the hospital she made me promise that I would not let them take her to the hospital again.

I replied “I promise”.

At this time, life had been scaring me and I was getting lost in the many responsibilities that I had on my plate. I was ending my first semester of college and fell behind, so I had to work hard to work my way back and finish my final exam.

I didn’t get to spend much time with Fryda.

In celebration of my first ever completed semester, I had planned a day by myself to go to Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter park since I consider myself a fan of the books.

I would leave in the morning at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday. The previous day, i'd had received a text message from Fryda’s granddaughter (Gianina), explaining that they took Fryda back to the hospital.

I was upset and scared to go see Fryda. I knew she'd be upset that I couldn't keep the promise I'd made to her.

I went anyway and ended up staying there for 4 hours.

When I entered the room, Fryda had an oxygen mask engulfing her face. I sat by her, trying to understand what she was saying. After an hour I told her I was there for her but that I was going to get some work done.

20 minutes later Fryda started screaming and at first, I thought she was screaming at me. I decided to go to her anyway. For a quick second, I thought that she was dying! It turned out the the oxygen mask had been strapped on too tight and was cutting into her face.

After sitting there with her, I decided to leave, I went to her bed side and told her I was leaving and that I will be back soon. She nodded a tiered nod, took my hand and said “goodbye”, I said good bye and left.

I had said my last goodbye to Fryda and to some extent I knew it, but I still left to Orlando the next day. Perhaps I psychologically didn't want to be there when she died.

In Disney I was sitting on the mount Everest ride, I got a call from Fryda’s granddaughter, we were going up the track to go on the big drop when my gut told me not to pick it up. I was really going to answer it, but decided to answer it after the ride.

I think my subconscious told me not to pick it up because I knew she was calling to tell me that Fryda died. Maybe I didn't want to feel like the world was falling around me until I was calmer.

After the ride, I looked at my phone and saw that she had called again and left a message, it hit me so softly, I felt like I'd already been prepared for the crying woman, telling me that Fryda had passed away the night before. Fryda died.

I had imagined this scene that would take part of my life one day, all the different ways. I never thought I would get that news with people screaming with joy from the rides behind me and kids playing with big smiles on their faces wearing mickey mouse hats.

I had no reaction, didn’t feel that bad. It upset me and I walked away from my group and called every person I could discuss it with, my Father, Mother, Fryda’s granddaughter, my friend. No one picked up.

I found a corner by a small lake and sat down. I looked at the lake and felt G-d closer than ever.

I had really found G-d through Fryda and now I connected with G-d when he comforted me with the happiness which surrounded me. I had learned from there that the world was not going to mourn with me, they will all just continue without her.

Sitting by this little lake, I thought that I had lied to Fryda. I had told her that I would see her soon and I saw G-d and told Fryda through him that I will see her soon, just soon will have to be a lot longer then usual. That of course, is up to G-d.

I called my house phone and my mother picked up, “Fryda died” (saying passed away was not appropriate for Fryda, her family had died in the holocaust so she needed to die as well) I told her.

Once I said Fryda died, the crying came, the fact was, G-d gave me Fryda and now G-d took Fryda away from me. _____

I thought back to when Fryda could not read and she'd told me she could not pray, so I said I would daven Mincha (afternoon prayers) out loud and have her in mind.

She said yes and it was the last and only time that Fryda and I connected with G-d together.

Do you have any stories of a person who impacted your life? Discuss it with writeer of this article Michael Neuman, by posing it here or by sending your story to mnorthodoxmiami@gmail.com.

  Comments