(Susie is a journalist who found my page a while ago, and has sent me regular letters.-L)

Dear Leah,
I have written you a million times in my mind since last weekend. You would think that since writing is my craft, words and phrases would not be an issue. I suppose we can surmise that this is due to the impact that Yossi has left in my life and, more importantly, in my heart.

I've come to the conclusion that eloquence is a scarce commodity when expressing my feelings about the Yossman. It's both astonishing and a tribute to your very personal updates on his website at how "real" Yossi was to so many of us that never had the pleasure of knowing him in person. The fact that we feel like we know him (I refuse to use past tense because he is very much alive in heaven) was because you invited us to do so. You shared him with all of us.

The last time I checked the counter on Yossi's website it was over 40,000. Think about that Leah. That's more than the population of many towns in America! It's huge! I've come to the conclusion that you must be the most "giving" person in the world and I have the facts to back it up which I'll share in a minute if you will permit me a little bit of history.

I've followed several kids on Ped-Onc because I still want to finish my Master's in Psyche working specifically in Pediatric Oncology Psychotherapy. I learn so much from reading the posts about what is necessary and what is missing. I think it should be required reading for anyone considering the field of pediatric oncology. It's the front lines. Those posts detail the people who live every day with this disease. It affects the most cherished people in any parent's life...their children. Doctors, nurses, social workers, lab techs, and anyone else that touches a family dealing with this disease could gain incredible knowledge by listening and reading what family members have to say about their experiences. Is there any greater expert on living with a child battling cancer than the mother and father who are there day in and day out? I think not.

Anyway, I knew of Yossi in the past two years I have been subscribed to the list, but never in any detailed way. I knew he had received a bmt and had done very well. I always loved your posts because they were "spirited" and in my mind, you were the wonderful ped-onc "cheerleader" giving people energy and hope. I always looked forward to your posts prior to October 2000. That's when I can truly say that I met Yossi. I quickly searched out his site, still not believing the news you had shared regarding his relapse. It felt unthinkable to me.

From October 2000, I was a steady and faithful reader and prayer. It became a habit that whenever I would sign on AOL, I would always go to Yossi's site, even before reading my E-mail. You nailed it when you termed it a roller coaster. I knew a testicular relapse was a serious issue, but in my mind he seemed almost indestructible. I think all of us maintained our hope because of Yossi's resiliency and your energy. We fed off of it. It was too irresistible not to. Sometimes I think you must be made of krypton, well, krypton and a mighty fine set of "mommy boots"

I read the updates through October, November and December, riding the roller coaster through the various surgeries, chemotherapy protocols, low counts and fevers, but all of it so wonderfully interspersed with positive things involving family, holidays and the generous fount of love that you seem to apply in everything you do. So much wonderful love. No wonder Yossi has such a great smile, he comes from fine stock.

In between Christmas shopping, I read of your insurance woes, trying to find the right bmt center and squeezing in that "sleep over" and getting Yossi ready for his date with Disney. I imagined you this incredible conductor, assembling and extracting the very best from those around you. You must have a golden "baton" I surmised. You deftly handled Yossi's every changing medical status, four other children, a husband, and everything that goes with all of those things with such implicit grace and a wonderful sense of fun. Even with Yossi facing yet another bmt, you still had this unquenchable sense of happiness, optimism, STRENGTH that was so evident through all the posts you somehow found time to post.

Then comes January 2001 and the second bmt is on the horizon. Even with all of that, Yossi manages a fine trip to Disney and you ferret out the plethora of information and make the final decision of which bmt center to use. Off you set for Minneapolis and, lo and behold, you spread magic again. In between getting settled, filling the cupboards, reporting for the requisite tests to comply with the insurance, you find time to make things grand for Yossi with a trip to the Mall of America, finding a great kosher pizza store and gave us all a giggle with the "famous hanging baby" escapade that I'm certain the hospital won't soon forget! You INFUSED laughter in what typically is a fairly serious and not so lighthearted setting.

Not one to depend on mere text, you so beautifully documented this journey with wonderful photos capturing everything from Yossi's obvious glee at Grandpa being the target of the hospital lab, Yossi checking out the bed controls and nurse call button, and the adorable pictures of your other children who were most certainly a part of this experience. You seamlessly incorporated everyone and everything. It was precious. It was personal. It was exactly who you are.

Then came the big day when Yossi was infused with Grandpa's marrow. Who couldn't get chills and tear up seeing a picture of Yossi receiving the ultimate gift from his beloved grandfather? How poignant that was. You reminded us, however, that it did feel like a slap in the face for this child to have to endure this all too familiar experience once again. No one should have to be there once, much less twice. For all the fun you created to make things easier for Yossi and the family, you reminded us that this WAS serious business and always, always you solicited our prayers, regardless of what religion we practiced. I loved it so much when you shared what your rabbi had said..."same boss, different management". I wonder why the UN hasn't snatched you up!

I celebrated my 41st birthday on February 6th. My friends took me to lunch and I was instructed to make a wish and blow out my candles...I think you can imagine what my wish was. February was a cruel month for all of you. Just when it became obvious that the marrow had engrafted, it became painfully clear that something else had as well. Throughout all of those difficult days and nights, you still allowed us to be as close to Yossi's bedside as we could. You shared pictures, you shared hopes, fears, dreams and a huge piece of your heart. I can't ever remember being excited to know that a child peed, but I cheered when I read that Yossi had! When I read the letter that Michoel had written right after Yossi was put in a medically induced coma, I imagined Yossi reading that letter a few weeks later and maybe even shuddering to realize how close he had come to the edge and more importantly, how dearly his father loved him. That letter Michoel wrote tore me to pieces. What devotion both of you gave to your son during this time.

How faithfully you tended to his needs and oversaw that he had everything possible, even researching a drug that was more than a little difficult to acquire. You not only petitioned G-d for his intervention, but you used everything G-d gave you to make sure every base was covered and every stone was unturned. You gave your prayers legs to walk on. You did everything humanly possible and I hope, when you think back to this period, you will realize this fact. No one on this earth could have done more for Yossi than you and Michoel. You did everything right. No ball was dropped because you were right there to catch it. Your vigilance was something that can only be termed superhuman.

In the last week of his life, though you knew the probable outcome, you never lost your hope and you never dropped your Faith. My own Bible was turned to the list of Psalms on the day you called for all of us to focus our prayers and attention. I truly felt the power of people all around the world, in offices, homes, schools and probably a lot of other places, begging G-d to please let this angel stay on earth. It became a habit with my two teenagers when they would come home from school...."how's Yossi today?". Cheers when the news was good and tears when the news wasn't so good.

And then, one week ago tomorrow, the unthinkable happened. Yossi had to go be with G-d. It wasn't meant to be that he stay on this earth. I've lost a sister and grandparents and Leah, because of your allowing all of us become acquainted with this wonderful young man, I keenly felt this loss as well. I tried to imagine how you were coping, what you and your family were feeling, but I couldn't possibly know. And just as you have through this entire ordeal, you invited us right along. You didn't jettison your "Internet family" and allow us to fade away. You invited us along on dark days that followed. We needed to grieve and know about this part too and somehow you sensed that.

I've come to a few conclusions, Leah. Remember how I told you that you had to be one of the most generous people on earth? In my mind there can be no question that you are. On days that would sap the most herculean well of energy, you never left us hanging and somehow managed to post an update, somehow knowing how dearly we needed to know what was happening. You even taught us important lessons along the way. In your very own wonderful way you gave us just the right doses of humor to relieve the tension, brought us back to the task at hand by never ending without a heartfelt plea for our prayers, and you reminded us, even in the middle of the pain of seeing Yossi go be with G-d, that He was listening to all of our petitions but that the answer just had to be no. G-d obviously needed Yossi even more than those of us on earth did. You can't blame him, really. He is an incredible person. No wonder G-d needed him even in the presence of all of our pleas.

Leah, you have served Yossi so well in the role of his mother for his entire life here on earth. You have served him just as well since he's gone to heaven. He would be so very proud of you. He would be pleased that you haven't let us off the hook from doing good deeds and maintaining our Faith. Don't you just know that heaven must be so much brighter because of the smile he took with him? And don't you realize that you gave Yossi so very much to smile about? And aren't we all richer, more aware of our blessings and stronger in our Faith because you took the trouble to allow us to share in this experience? Well done, Leah. You truly have been a good and faithful servant.

When considering whether to send a contribution in Yossi's memory to his school or the Chai Lifeline, I gave this some serious thought. Forgive me Leah, but in remembering that dazzling smile of his and the sense of fun it spoke of, I have to come down on the side of Chai Lifeline because they took him to Disney. I hope that's OK with you. If you would be so kind as to tell me where to send my check, I will send it earmarked in his honor and I hope that some other child will find a reason to smile.

Thank you again, Leah. You and Yossi have taught us all so many lessons and reminded us to celebrate each and every day we are given on this earth. I have collected those extra hugs and kisses from my Katie and Justin. Every day looks fresher because of the things you have shared and the wisdom you have taught us. I also appreciate your reintroducing me to the beauty in the Psalms. Justin and Katie looked up their special Psalm (one's age plus one!). We are Christians, but we have enjoyed learning more about the Jewish Faith. You know Leah, I fully expect to meet Yossi in heaven. There's not a chance I won't know who he is. I'll know him by his smile. Even in the beauty that is heaven, that still must be an amazing sight.

Still praying and promising daily acts of kindness,

Susie Parker
Wilmington, NC


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