This picture is the dry-erase board on my refrigerator to remind me of things I need to do. A couple of days ago, I wrote “Call Nissan.”
Last June, I wrote Chance Meeting with History about a friendship that was born during a ten-minute airport shuttle ride when I had the great good fortune to sit next to Holocaust survivor Nissan Krakinowski.
Sometimes someone reaches straight into your heart and you instantly know this person will impact your life forever. Such was the case when I met Nissan. Although we only talked face-to-face for ten minutes, we kept in touch by phone every few weeks. We shared details of our lives that at times delved into deeply personal.
He was the last survivor of his family. His wife and two daughters had preceded him in death and he cried every time he talked about them and how much he missed them. He often asked why he was still here. I told him it was because he needed to tell the story of the Holocaust so people wouldn’t forget.
And, from a purely selfish perspective, he was here to make my life richer with his friendship.
Nissan had been much on my mind the past several days. Yet when I thought of calling him, it was either too late or it was during Sabbath. I wrote the note on the board so another day wouldn’t pass without calling him. Yesterday I got his answering machine, which wasn’t unusual.
This morning a friend of Nissan’s told me he died last night.
As a young boy, Nissan had experienced horrors that are worse than death. The loss of his wife and daughters was, to him, worse than death.
Now he is reunited with the family he loved and, for that, I’m glad.
But he took a piece of my heart with him when he left.
Do I wish I’d called a few days sooner? Do I wish I’d had one more conversation with him? Oh, yes.
This morning, when my husband was consoling me, he reminded me it was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved.
Although our friendship was much too brief, knowing Nissan was an honor and a privilege that I give thanks for.
He always ended our conversations with: “Wishing you the best of the best and much, much more.”
Dearest Nissan, knowing you was the best of the best and much, much more.
Nissan Krakinowski was my uncle (his wife was my father’s sister), and a truly great man. I’m also sorry I didn’t get to talk to him just once more. I’ve taken the responsibility of saying Kaddish for him, as well as his daughter Pessie, whose year of mourning is not yet up. A blessing on their memory.
Shaul, thank you for saying Kaddish. I knew Pessie has passed recently but did not realize it was less than a year.
Nissan told me about his wife’s “wonderful, wonderful” family, and about living in the same house with his inlaws. With his family of origin gone, they filled that void with joy and love.
My husband has been saying Kaddish for them as well. They were our family by choice. We love and miss them all so very much.
Thank you so much for this Debbie. Nissan was the best of the best and we are all truly devastated by his loss. I was blessed to have him as my adopted Zaydie (grandfather).
Chana, As someone who was adopted, I feel connections of the heart can be as strong as, if not stronger than, connections by blood.
I agree wholeheartedly.
He died the day after Yom Kippur,the holiest day of the Jewish year,when God is especially attentive to our prayers and makes the decision whether we will be inscribed in the Book of Life.Thank you so much for sharing the story of your meeting and friendship.We are so sorry for your loss yet glad he will be with his beloved wife and children at last.
So very important to remind us Debbie, everyone we meet in life is an opportunity to touch a soul and lift it. Feeling blessed to know you, as you are blessed to know Nissan. May his family, friends and acquaintances be comforted at this time.
Thank you, Constance. Your kind words comfort my broken heart.
Ahh. He touched your heart. Forever remembered. I recall when you spoke of the chance meeting with this wonderful man.
Whenever we talked, Nissan spoke about Emily and her wonderful family with such love. You all brought him great joy.
The world is a poorer place without his loving presence.
We share in your grief. Nissan was like a grandfather to my daughter Emily, who met with him on many occasions. She was honored to have been the recipient of many of his insights, and life experiences, and will treasure the memories she has of him forever.
Thank you for sharing him with the world.