Life was fine. There were the usual bumps in the road. Nothing to write home about. That was before I fell into a black hole.
It had been a frustrating few weeks. My son wasn’t feeling well. It threw my schedule off what with having to take off so many days from work. Appointments had to be cancelled. Some clients weren’t too happy. The doctor prescribed some medication and I thought we were done but a few days later we were back in his office, another day off from work. It was really getting to my son also. It was no fun for him to hear all about the funny things that happened at school from friends at night. He wanted to be back on his regular schedule. He even missed a school trip. We were both in lousy moods, frustrated at not being able to get back to our routines. The phone rang one afternoon. They were calling from the doctor’s office. Finally a diagnosis. “Mrs. P, the doctor would like you to take your son to the Hematology Emergency Room.” I got excited. I had no idea what all that meant. All I could think of was that we were finally getting somewhere. Well, we did get somewhere. And that somewhere was a big, frightening black hole.
I sat there in front of the doctor’s desk, part of my mind wondering if I could still make my afternoon appointment. That’s when I heard the words that no mother ever wants to hear. Deathly ill, he said. I sat there stunned. I couldn’t absorb it. I was shell-shocked. How could I have been frustrated at schedules?!
Work began immediately. For the hospital, it was routine. For me, it was a horrific nightmare. The staff was professional. Well, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted them to be unprofessional! That meant pages and pages of applications to be filled out when I could barely focus enough to provide them with my address. Blood tests. My son was terrified. He needed a strong Mommy and I was a fragile reed. X-rays, more blood tests. Hours and hours of waiting for results, only to be told that another test was needed. I felt faint. I rested my head on the table, barely aware of my surroundings.
I have no idea how long I lay there. Drained. Depleted. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. A gentle touch. So caring. “ You’ve been here a long time, I’m told,” came the soft voice of an angel. “You’re worn out. Have something to drink. You’ll feel better.” She helped me sip the hot, comforting drink, all the while holding my hand and assuring me that she and all her co-staff members will remain with me throughout the ordeal. They’ll be there to advise me every step of the way. They’ll send someone to stay with my son so I can have a break. They’ll care for the other children when I’m at the hospital. They’ll….so many things. I couldn’t even remember them all. She brought me a hot meal and sat with me while I ate. I felt like withered plant now rejuvenated under the rays of the warm, healing sun. She’d be back. Every day. Infusing me with spirit. But on that day, I didn’t even have the strength to say thank you.
Thus began my love affair with Ezer Mizion’s Lottie’s Kitchen.
Whatever I needed, Ezer Mizion was right there. When my son needed platelets for 42 days straight, I had no idea where to turn. I was told to call Ezer Mizion and it was Ezer Mizion that found 42 donors who were happy to spend a few hours in the hospital to help a little boy that they didn’t even know.
The Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers would often know what I needed even before I did. Rides to the hospital, a place to stay near the hospital, even a fun day off now and then with someone to stay with my son while I recharged my batteries. And they would help arrange it, notifying one of the Ezer Mizion departments of what was needed.
I was certain that we would have to postpone the Bar Mitzvah of my older son. Planning a Bar Mitzvah required time and energy and I was overdrawn on both. But Ezer Mizion was there for that also and offered us a choice of their setting up the whole thing from top to bottom or providing us with enough help so that we can do it on our own. Regardless of our choice, they said, Ezer Mizion would remain with us helping, supporting in whatever way is needed.
I met others during our months at the hospital. Others who had a similar story. Like the woman who looked so put together- the type who always knew her way around. She was from overseas and had flown in to be with her sister who was seriously- very seriously- ill. She went straight from the airport to the hospital and spent hours at her sister’s bedside. She knew no Hebrew and had no contacts in the country. She knew nothing of how to get around in Israel and couldn’t leave her sister even for a moment. She was beyond exhausted and didn’t know where to turn. She realized that if she didn’t get help soon, she would be the next patient. She was familiar with Ezer Mizion and even supported its Cancer Division. A quiet knock on the door introduced her to Lottie’s Kitchen, one of Ezer Mizion’s other divisions. No brochure could have explained as lucidly and poignantly the mission of Lottie’s Kitchen, she told me. The taste of that first meal, the caring voice of the one who delivered it will always be one of her most moving memories. Like clockwork, the Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers appeared each day for months, bringing nutrition for both body and soul.
An older woman staying with her very ill daughter told me how on the first Shabbat after the diagnosis, the family had planned that the husband would be with his wife over Shabbat and the children would be farmed out. Then, three hours before Shabbat, she decided that she would stay in the hospital with her daughter, so that the father could be home with his children.
A small light flickered on fifty screens: “Shabbos meals needed for a family of ten.” In fifty homes, they started setting aside portions from the food that was ready, defrosting ingredients, rolling up their sleeves, and sending out flickering, glowing messages: “We’ll prepare ten portions of fish, “Three salads – taken care of,” “Five challahs waiting here for pickup,” “Seven portions of chicken and a tray of oven-baked potatoes, “Ten schnitzels will be ready in another fifteen minutes, “Dessert for two meals,” “Shabbos will be here in another hour and a half, and I’m starting the pickup now…”
And so, within an hour, the dishes were collected and brought to the family’s home. Only Lottie’s Kitchen could have pulled that one off, she said.
A young couple described their recent hospital stay with their tiny son. “We are both in the ward non-stop. A month in the hospital! A month! Twenty-eight days… when all you see are syringes, doctors, nurses, and patients, lots and lot of patients. Parents trying to cope, people whose whole reality was turned upside down. Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers flit through, giving out hot meals to everyone, and then again with a wagon full of prizes for the sick child, and yet again with refreshing coffee and cake for us.”
A woman I met in the ER during the recent war told me, “I live in Ashdod. The constant sirens, running to the shelter, the unrelenting tension – were grinding us down. Finally, I decided we needed a break. My husband couldn’t leave his job, but I took the kids on the bus and headed for Jerusalem, to family, to get some peace and quiet.
“On the last leg of the bus ride, the driver had to make a short stop. My son flew forward, knocked his head and got a nasty cut. I knew it’s not serious, but… Three weeks in Ashdod, and not a scratch, baruch Hashem. And now – this…” She was there in ER for hours and her little boy was starved. She was so overwhelmed. But not for long. Two hot meals, sandwiches for later, and warm, reassuring words. The woman from Ashdod came to life at this show of attention, and her son smiled for the first time since I was there. They are really unbelievable, those Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers.”
It seemed as if everyone I spoke to in the hospital had a ‘Lottie’s Kitchen story’. Not surprising when you see the extent of what is provided each year:
81,600 Hot Meals
13,000 Cookies / Cakes
The backbone of Ezer Mizion’s Lottie’s Kitchen is all of you, our dear friends and supporters. The long-awaited 2015 Lottie’s Kitchen Event will take place on July 8 at the magnificent home of Rina and Eli Cohen in Deal.
It promises to be the best year ever! Professional food demos, a most unique Kitchen Boutique, a choice of the most lavish Chinese Auction packages and, of course, Portraits with Susan Menashe (9-11 AM on July 8th and 9-4 on July 7th)
An event to remember! Wednesday, July 8th. See you there!