Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Joshua (Jesh) Leeder, Z"L

After a year of neurological symptoms, my uncle was misdiagnosed by several doctors, who told him he had a "bad case of Lyme Disease." When it was too late, they realized (what I and my father, 'mere Chiropractors,' had realized long ago) that Jesh had ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, a severe attack on the neurological pathways which mostly affects men in their 40's through early 60's, and has no cure.

One year ago, Jesh fell into a coma, and the doctors, ignoring his DNR request, put him on life support. Of course, upon consultation with the Rabbi, it was decided that even though my uncle had vehemently refused extreme measures, NOW that he was on life support, he could not be taken off, according to the halacha as they see it.

In denial, his wife (and their 13 children) decided that it was still a simple case of Tick Fever, and that if they took him home to be surrounded by his family and friends, he would wake up one morning as if this all never happened.

Two days ago, my uncle Jesh Leeder, died. And the Rabbis, who before were willing to ignore his pain and suffering and personal wishes, felt that now that the body was just a shell, he should be buried immediately, without even waiting for some members of the family to arrive for the funeral.

Jesh was a man who lived by his convictions, a modest, talented and spiritual man, and his loss will be felt by many.

The implications of his death scare me more, in a selfish human way. In the last year, my father has lost both his older sister (one year older) and now his older brother (older by two years). I am not ready to G-d Forbid sit shiva.

I am hoping that my father has inherited his father's genes, a man who lived a somewhat active life for 25 years after a severe stroke. My grandfather was a stubborn genius: a surgeon, a Rabbi and Scholar, a Sofer (ritual Jewish ancient Hebrew script), and a Shochet (ritual Jewish slaughter expert for Kosher meat). He saved Uncle Jesh's hand from amputation as a child, by essentially inventing micro-surgery and personally supervising the rehabilitation process. My grandfather also disciplined his children in ways that today would alarm social services and would be considered child abuse.

My grandfather died when he was ready, and not a minute sooner, at the age of 84.

I wish my father a long life of health, happiness and success, may he, as his father before him, live to see his great-grandchildren.

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