> Spirituality > Spiritual Odysseys

My Night in the Emergency Room

July 6, 2017 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

On the day of my mother’s unveiling, her words from the past came to comfort me.

I was in my kitchen following directions for a new muffin recipe when the immersion blender got stuffed with the dried ingredients, clogging the sharp blades. For a second I thought to myself, let me unplug the machine, but somehow I didn’t.

I know. Big mistake.

I put my finger in to scoop out the thickened flour and before I knew it the machine went swirling. I screamed out for my husband to call Hatzalah, the emergency volunteer corp. Grabbing a towel, I wrapped it tightly around my finger. We ran outside, my hand lifted, pointed to the sky.

A few moments later we heard the sound of sirens. My husband and I climbed into the ambulance. I was afraid to look and turned away as my finger was examined. No doubt about it, I needed to get to a hospital. I kept giving my husband a brave smile but the truth is, I had no idea about how much damage was done. I was frightened and scared. And yes, it was painful.

The Hatzalah volunteers raced us to a nearby hospital. They brought us in to the emergency room and reassured us that all will be all right.

All around me there were people waiting to be helped. Police were clustered around a room where they were guarding a crime victim with a gunshot wound. Some lay moaning on their stretchers. This is going to be a really long night, I thought to myself.

The Hatzalah crew took care of getting me checked in and quickly returned with news.

“The doctor on call tonight is a wonderful plastic surgeon. He’s part of the local community and guess what his specialty is? Hands!”

I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

“I can’t believe it,” my husband added. “I know him. We grew up together and went to the same shul as kids.”

Even more unbelievable because the shul is in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I was settled on a stretcher still holding up my heavily bandaged finger while we waited for the doctor who was treating another patient.

My husband began pacing. “Is the pain terrible?” he asked.

“It’s ok.” I gave a thin smile.

So many thoughts were going through my head. Why didn’t I just unplug that machine? What was I thinking? Who knows what this will involve? And wow, does this ever hurt!

Then I remembered something my mother taught me years ago. When Joseph was sold by his brothers and taken down to Egypt, he was put into a caravan. Normally, there would be smelly tar taken as the caravan’s cargo but to spare Joseph the awful stench, God arranged that on this journey there would be fragrant spices instead. When Joseph would smell the spices he’d realize that he was not forgotten. This would be a personal sign to him. Even in the midst of his pain and suffering, he was receiving a comforting message from Above.

At this moment I truly got it.

In the midst of your pain, look for a sign and seek a token of something good. Try to smell the sweet spices and you’ll get through your challenge feeling loved despite the pain.

“Here we are in this emergency room,” I said to my husband. “It’s the middle of the night, we’re both exhausted and I have no idea how this will turn out. But with it all, I feel comforted. The doctor here is a plastic surgeon hand specialist whom you grew up with! What are the odds? I am smelling the sweet spices. I am feeling the Almighty watching over me.”

A short while later the doctor treated me and thank God I my hand will heal without lasting damage. We were finally ready to return home.

It had been a difficult day. That morning we had stood in the cemetery for the unveiling of my beloved mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. Prayers were recited and tears were shed. Even though the distance from that tragic moment of loss grows wider, the searing pain remains. I yearn for another conversation, another laugh, another Shabbos meal shared, another blessing that will never be.

But if we can hold onto the lessons that a parent has given us, then the soul is forever with us, guiding us, inspiring us, and infusing us with strength. That is the parent’s legacy.

That night my mother’s words echoed to me in the night, bringing me comfort and soothing my soul.


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