On February 4 my son Gillie died. He died one month short of his 47th birthday. Three weeks have passed since and I am still unable to comprehend it. Maybe writing down how it happened will help me come to terms with it. It will not take away the pain, but maybe it will make it more bearable.

On September 18 at 5 a.m. the telephone rings. Something must have happened and it can’t be good. As usual I get this sinking feeling, I pick up the phone and of course it is Gillie, asking me whether he can come home, he is sick. When he arrives, I am shocked, he looks terrible. He had been vomiting for two days but wouldn’t see a doctor. Not wanting to upset him in his condition, I give in and try to make him comfortable. We somehow make it through the day, but when I get up early the next morning, I find him on the bathroom floor, unconscious. I manage to wake him and take him to Laniado Hospital, where he is rushed into the emergency room and diagnosed with a severe heart attack. I can’t believe my ears, a heart attack? After some tests the doctors decide to send him to the Intensive Care Heart Department of the Rabin Medical Center. By this time I have called the girls and they are on their way.

Most of what I described up to now I remember only in parts. For example, I must have gone home, leaving Gillie for a while in the E.R., because I received a phone call from there that they are moving him to the other hospital. Everything is a blank. Why did I go home?

The next thing I remember is arriving at the Intensive Care Unit with Irit (Yael comes later from N.Y.). Most of the time we have to wait outside, as the doctors are working on Gillie. We are desperate to hear an opinion, but when we hear what is wrong with him, we can’t believe it: severe damage to the heart muscles, function of the heart only 8%, and a long list of other things which are incomprehensible to us. We are in shock.

The next few days pass for me in a fog. I remember seeing Gillie surrounded by doctors, or with his sisters, who look after him, touch and massage him. Sometimes his friends visit him, but I see myself mostly on the side, just looking at him and not talking much.

When he is released, he returns to me. Irit, Yael and some friends move his things into my apartment, and we make his room as comfortable as possible. Gillie is very depressed. The doctors insisted on telling him the truth about his condition, which I think is wrong. It is wrong to take away a person’s hope completely. Is it any wonder that all Gillie wanted was to die? How can a young man face the fact that he has to live a life devoid of anything that makes life worth living, with his life hanging on a thread?

Now and then we consult other cardiologists, but we never get any good news. His friends are wonderful. They take him for outings, picking him up and bringing him back, either to their homes or some restaurant. They call and try to cheer him up, which is not easy. He is depressed and gets tired very quickly. Even his brother Larry comes from England to visit him. Gillie is joking – he is teasing Larry that he only came to see him once more before he dies. Nevertheless, he is very touched and happy to spend a few days with him.

We have settled down to a routine. Gillie has changed, he is much closer to me now. Where before (when he lived with me) he used to spend most of the time in his room, now he sits with me and we talk. We watch T.V. together, choosing movies that we both like. I cook him all his favorite dishes and he loves to eat. He is looking much better now, but alas, his health is not improving. He talks more and more of death, until the last week of his life. Because of his restlessness he gets a new prescription for a tranquilizer and he seems calmer. On Saturday his friend Dudy picks him up and takes him to his home. Gillie returns early, telling me that he is very tired and not feeling well, and that he is going to bed early. All that is unusual. Dudy tells me that Gillie insisted on walking all the way to his friend Doron, almost one kilometer, and then was jumping up and down, as if deliberately to tire himself out. The next day I wake him up as usual and give him his medication. He goes back to sleep and I prepare him some lunch for later. When I look in on him before going to have a rest myself, he is still asleep.

I read in bed a while and fall asleep. When I get up and go to his room, I see him sitting in his chair, fully dressed, the cell phone on his lap and his beloved cat Misha sitting next to him, sleeping peacefully. Sleeping? His face is completely colorless. I call Gillie, Gillie, I touch him and he is ice cold. I will never get this picture out of my mind. I see his face in front of me constantly. My only consolation is that he got his wish and that he looked so peaceful.

When I think back at the last few months, I am grateful for the time we had together. We became very close and got on well together. I did my best to make his life as comfortable as it was possible under the circumstances, but I could not help him. My son died while I was resting in the next room. That is something that I can not forget. I will always miss him.

Lucy Mandelstam February 2007