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April 2011 “TIME IS SHORT”

Madja lived a very full, dramatic and traumatic life. Born in Lodj, Poland, she survived the 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. She successfully immigrated to Israel and lived life with gusto as member of a kibbutz in the northern Negev. Madja lived on the kibbutz, working, contributing to the communal efforts and raising a family, zealously, aggressively, possessively.

An inoperable brain tumor brought a tragic end to Madja’s life at the age of 72. She was still going strong to the very end, 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 said. The normal responses to such a verdict would be anger, sorrow, bitterness, a feeling of unfairness, regret, panic, despair. But something else emerged for Madja: the feeling that there is work yet to be done. Both physical and emotional.

First, there’s time to put all my affairs in order, she said, thinking “I don’t want anyone else to clean out my closets.” She solicited the help of her children to help her go through her possessions, to distribute or discard them. A walk down memory lane, a live funeral of a sort, as Madja and her family said goodbye to those few things that she had accrued throughout the years her escape from war-ravaged Europe. 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 time to “clean out” some other baggage, of 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. Upon 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.