Stefanella's Drive Thru

Israel, U.S., conflict, war, peace, humor, travel, romance, fashion, fun

Clinical Death September 7, 2009

There’s this older woman who goes to the  same Tel Aviv park I take my dog Butch to for exercise every day. She & I tend to show up about the same time in the evenings and we usually sit next to each other.   

I don’t know her name but she has kicky, short orange hair she covers with a baseball cap and she uses a cane to get around.  Her manicured nails are always painted the same shade of frosty white, she pencils in her eyebrows, wears blue eyeshadow and her lipstick is a Sienna tinged with bright red.

On particularly hot days she brings bottled water and a communal drinking bowl for the dogs.  And before sitting down on the hard stone bench under the lime tree, she always spreads the day’s newspaper beneath her.

I met her a few months ago and we chatted back then about dog things.  That’s what we humans tend to do when  getting acquainted as the canines frolic.  At the time, she told me about a great “vacation spot” for dogs (read: kennel with a run) she had placed her furry companion in while she spent a month in the hospital.

I didn’t ask her about the hospitalization.  It seemed intrusive for a first encounter.

We’ve seen each other at the park for a few months now but we’ve never really gotten past the “which vet do you go to?” and “where do you buy your dog supplies?” type of banter. But last week I pulled her dog out of a fight and that changed the dynamic.

I didn’t have a choice, really.  No one else went into the fray and she’s physically incapable.  I mean, she is hovering around the mid-80’s mark and she’s frail and her 75-pound mutt is obtuse.  The other person was frantically trying to pull his dog away as hers attacked but he was losing the battle.

So I grabbed hers by the collar and with a sharp, stern tone commanded “NO!” while staring him squarely in the eyes.  I was attempting to present as The Alpha.  Thankfully, it worked.

After that wee bit of pulse-raising drama, I returned to my place on the bench beside the woman and remained quiet.  I really, but really don’t like making “a thing”  out of something like that and it started and finished quickly and without incident so in my mind, it was over.

The woman fretted a bit, though, about her dog being out of control and then she shifted her tone: “I have something to tell you.”

Oh?  I cocked my head and raised an eyebrow.

“I saw my own funeral,”  she started.  I was silent.  I mean, how DOES one counter a statement like that?

When I was in the hospital,” she pressed on, “I died.  I was clinically dead. I couldn’t tell you how long it lasted but they told me later they had pronounced me dead.

I stared intently and swallowed.  She continued:

While it was happening, I rose above the bed and I was transported to the kibbutz where I have my plot.  I saw my family standing there around the grave.  I was watching the whole thing,” she relayed.  “And you know what?”  I was hanging on to her every word   “It felt wonderful.  I was at peace.  It was like letting go and relaxing.  Everything was okay.

I was astonished.  “Did they tell you how long you were dead?  Do you remember coming back?” I prodded.

No, no.  They didn’t want to talk about it,” she dismissed with a wave of the hand.  “And I don’t remember how I came back.  But I’ll tell you one thing:  That business about a light?”  she scrunched her face in disgust.   “Nonsense.   Light Shmight.  Don’t believe it.  I was floating.  That’s it.”

I had to go just then.  But I could have listened for a very long time.  I’ll let you know if she has more to tell.

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To Gaza with Love January 15, 2009

My 7-year-old’s school is taking up a care package collection for Israeli soldiers serving in Gaza.

This business of organizing little gifties with little notes for military personnel serving in a conflict an hour & a half’s drive from my Tel Aviv home is a new experience for me.    gazasoldiers1

Because during my growing up years, the closest I ever came to participating in organized support for a cause was when our private school bussed the lot of us downtown to Cincinnati’s Fountain Square where we sat on the frigid cobblestone in mid-winter listening to speakers calling for the Soviet Union to Let the Refuseniks Go!

So when I consulted with my son about the care package – What do you want to include?  Maybe a few marbles?  Some chocolate bars?  That cool leather bracelet you got as a gift that you never wear? and told him that per the teacher’s suggestion we should add a personal note from him, he asked me a rather interesting question.  One, in my opinion, that I failed to answer adequately.

When the current Gaza incursion began nearly three weeks ago, my son and I were staying with friends in northern Israel for the weekend.  About midday we heard a stream of jets flying overhead.  For those in the know,  there is no mistaking the sound of fighter jets.  And being the Jewish Sabbath and all – a day Israel’s army doesn’t train –  it was clear “something was going down.”

Could the Gaza Operation be starting already? I asked our hosts.  The Israeli government had made it clear there would be an incursion but they had also said it would take place sometime after Sunday’s Cabinet session. Ha ha.  Part of the plan.  Surprise attack!

I try to keep my son away from regional news or gory details I don’t think he necessarily needs to know.  But as we ventured out for lunch a half hour later, he asked what was going on as my friends and I pointed overhead at yet another band of departing fighter planes.  That’s the Israeli army & they’re going down to a place called Gaza, I explained.

He wanted to know the distance from us to Gaza, why soldiers would be going there and whether or not we were safe.  I briefed him in the briefest manner possible.

But when we returned to the cozy warmth of our friends’ home, while channel surfing to find Cartoon Network I glimpsed the first Gaza aftermath images on Sky. The journalist in me couldn’t help but pause to take in scenes of wounded Palestinians rushing to Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital Emergency Room.

My son demanded an explanation.  Remember the planes we saw?  These are the people in Gaza who were hurt when the planes bombed there…and I quickly got off the channel and the subject.

And I didn’t bring it up again.

So when I asked him about the care package, he asked me:  But mom, shouldn’t we be sending it to the people in Gaza?

And well…hmmm?  So I explained why the soldiers were in Gaza and told him about the militants sending rockets to Israel.

And he said that wasn’t right either.

And then he threw up his hands and said he didn’t want to send anything to anyone.

And I totally understood.