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.