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April 2011 “LIFE IS SHORT”

Madja lived a very full, dramatic and traumatic life.

Born in Lodj, Poland, Madja and her only sister Lola survived the grueling and life-threatening experiences of the ghetto, labor and concentration camps of the Holocaust as well as internment in a transition camp in Cyprus on the way to Israel. They successfully immigrated to Israel and Madja lived life with gusto with her husband Azriel (the singular Holocaust survivor from his family) as members of a kibbutz in the northern Negev. Madja's sister and husband Moshe settled in the Tel Aviv area.

Madja lived, worked and contributed to the communal efforts on the kibbutz and raised her family of 6 (4 children) zealously, aggressively, possessively. Madja wouldn't necessarily have chosen the kibbutz as her ideal place to live, but husband Azriel was a staunch socialist/communist and Madja followed suit. Madja buried her husband at age 56 when he died tragically in a car accident. She continued to work hard and was extremely proud of Eylon, her eldest son, two daughters - Shunamit and Nili, and youngest son Idan. When Eylon and his family moved to the States so that he could pursue his graduate studies, Madja visited a number of times, the last being when he got his PhD from Yale.

An inoperable brain tumor brought an end to Madja’s life at the age of 72. She remained strong through her last days, trying a variety of treatments, including a natural diet of sprouts and wheatgrass juice, in an obstinate effort to stave off the final moments.

Madja knew that death was at her door; she was given the verdict by her doctor 5 months before her last breath."Six months maximum," was what he had said. The normal responses to such a verdict would be anger, sorrow, bitterness, a feeling of unfairness, regret, panic, despair. But something else emerged in Madja: the feeling that there is work yet to be done. Both physical and emotional.

First, there’s a need to put all my affairs in order, saying: “I don’t want anyone else to clean out my closets.” She solicited the help of her children to go through her possessions: distribute or discard? It was a walk down memory lane, a live funeral of a sort, as Madja and her family said goodbye to those few things she had accrued throughout the years of her escape from war-ravaged Europe and minimalist life on the kibbutz. Her eldest son Eylon has since travelled across the globe with one such precious memento - a limestone box, hand-carved by a fellow internee in the Cyprus camp.

Second, and more importantly, there’s a need to “clean out” additional baggage - the emotional sort. Madja sensed that throughout her life her aggressive nature had taken a toll on people around her. Hurt feelings from harsh words, impassioned actions and a domineering manner had left negative results in their wake. On learning of her impending end, Madja systematically worked at making amends with everyone she could find, from family members to close friends to acquaintances whom she felt she had mistreated or misjudged. Her message to one and all: “Life is too short. Don’t waste a moment of time or energy on petty differences and misunderstandings. None of that is important.” A profound message from a courageous, tenacious woman.