TORONTO (Jan. 19) — I lost my brother this morning. Not my blood brother, because I never had one. But, the individual that has come closest in my life to filling that void. Big Moishe. My sweet Benjamin’s colleague. The person I grew to love more deeply than anyone but my closest relatives. Gone without warning. Still don’t know how.
And, honestly, I’m not sure where to turn. This is devastation. Intellectually, I understand the longer we live, the more of these gut–churning episodes we’ll endure. But, intellect and emotion do not always merge. Like at this moment. I’ve never written a blog through the blur of tears. Until now. Moishe is gone and I can’t believe it.
HOW CAN MY BIG BUDDY BE GONE? MOISHE WAS THE BROTHER I NEVER HAD. I’M HEARTBROKEN.
We were always texting and Messaging on Facebook. Moishe was naïve, but not stupid. He would send me “news bulletins” that were hours or days old. Such as during our last exchange (below), earlier in the week, when he posted about his favorite National Hockey League player, Marc–Andre Fleury. Yes, English was Moishe’s second language; he was born in Morocco. Evident in his messages. But, I always played along. He loved to talk about hockey and his favorite team, other than the Leafs, was the Vegas Golden Knights. Not because they won the Stanley Cup last spring. But, given that Fleury played there after the expansion club joined the NHL in 2018:
I’ll never forget how his eyes lit up when I introduced him to Zach Hyman, then still with the Leafs, at a cemetery during the pandemic. And, just a few weeks ago, when I called Glenn Healy over to the hearse after a service at our chapel. “This is my pal, Moishe,” I said to Glenn, who always knows how to treat someone like a brother.
Moishe loved to be feted. And, I was only too happy to oblige. Every year, on his birthday (May 20), I would take him to a branch of the LCBO and let him run wild. Told him he could buy whatever he wished (while holding my breath). It reminded me of watching my kids, back in the day, when I’d let them loose in Toys ‘R Us. He was so happy. Neither would he break the bank. Usually, a bottle of Tequila sufficed. Nor would I be telling the truth if I said I didn’t fear this day. Moishe was substantially overweight and couldn’t do much about it. Once a month, I would treat him, after work, to Sheli’s Burger and Fried Chicken, the kosher take–out place on Bathurst St. and Chabad Gate. I would grab a burger. Moishe would have two chili dogs, an order of chicken wings and a poutine.
All I could do was pay for his meal and pray.
Now, I can’t take him out anymore. And, it hurts so much.
You want to talk sweet? Once a day, at work, Moishe would come up to me and say he’d been praying for my father while reading Tehillim (Hebrew psalms). Dad turned 90 in August and lives in a retirement home. Every day is a blessing. And, Moishe knew that. I would often drive him home after work; he lived in the apartment complex at Bathurst and Rockford, south of Steeles. The effort it required for him to lift his frame out of my passenger seat always struck me. How difficult it must have been to carry that extra weight. But, he always smiled; always loved a self–deprecating jab. I’d be in a vehicle with him and make a silly wisecrack about one of our work colleagues. He would howl with laughter, knowing I was just horsing around. Oh, how I’ll miss those moments.
It may sound corny, but we often said how we loved one another as brothers. Moishe fell into a depressed state during the pandemic, when the city was shut down. He’d call me and say he couldn’t get out of bed; there was nowhere for him to go. That his room was dark. I would implore him to take baby steps. “First, open your window shade, Moishe. Let some light in. When you feel up to it, walk onto your balcony and smell the air. You’ll see, this won’t last very long.” Nor did it. Moishe took those steps. And, felt better in no time. Which made me smile.
Now, we have to go on at Benjamin’s without him. Precisely how, I can’t comprehend. Not yet.
The pain is too raw.
Rest in peace, bro. I will love you forever.