cancer, courage, friendship, illness, Stella, strength

The Hockey-Stick Wielding Heroine

Yarden was telling me recently about the amazing emails that have been pouring in about Stella. About her never-ending chesed (charity) work, about her friendship, and about her positive attitude and desire to help others.
Yes, all of these are true.
But I’ve been privy to another side of Stella’s personality that few people know, and I wanted to share it with others. You may have had a glimpse of this side in the last two years, during unfortunate times.
For me, this side of her personality always brings a wide smile to my face, because it appears so incongruous and surprising.
And she exhibited this side on one of my favorite days in our friendship. Stella is one tough mama when pulled into action, showing a fearlessness, a protectiveness and an energy that most of us don’t possess.
Here we are all dressed up, but don’t let that soft side fool you!
Stella, I know you remember the day well, and we’ve reminisced about it and laughed over it for at least 9 years now. It was the Spring of 2003 or maybe 2004 and our neighborhood had been plagued by these enormous, absolutely disgusting black snakes who had decided that Potomac was a pretty nice place to take up residence.
The problem was that it was also our home, and we were often coming face to face with them. Blech.
One afternoon, and I really don’t remember the details too well, we were hanging outside of our cul-de-sac as we so often did. A snake has been spotted somewhere near the Frankl’s house, and then lost. Backing away from their house, we all studied the neighborhood, trying desperately to find that snake. And then suddenly, Matan (3 or 4 at the time) yelled, “It’s there! It’s right there!” And indeed, it was slithering up a pipe on the side of the Frankl house.
Screaming in horror, we all ran farther away.
But not Stella.
No, as we ran, we suddenly heard a charging noise. Yielding a hockey stick, Stella went charging for the snake, running across the parking lot and launching herself at the drain pipe. We didn’t know whether to scream, laugh or run, but Stella was having none of that. She was going to rid her home of that snake, if she had to take it into her own hands to do so.
Believe it or not, I don’t actually remember the ending. I don’t believe that she caught the snake in some dramatic display and bashed its brains in, although that would have made for great entertainment. For us, the end result really wasn’t as important as the image of Stella running towards the site of danger with her look of determination and concentration.
The snake got away, I believe. And we all ended up on the ground, laughing and then re-enacting Stella’s charge that day…and for years to come.
In the last two plus years, Stella has, unfortunately, been plagued with other snakes. This time they were even more fierce, powerful and menacing. But in perfect Stella fashion, she has wielded that hockey stick, charging at those snakes and swinging at every opportunity. We have stood on the sidelines, in awe just as we were that day in 2003 or 2004, amazed by her determination, power and will.
And just as Stella showed when she did battle against the black snakes of Potomac, it is the actions that she has taken along the way, the valiant fight, and the incredible courage that we admire. You, Stella my dear, are a hockey stick wielding, determined heroine. And your fight has been, and continues to be, such an example to so many.  Through this process, you have shown such determination, grace and courage. I wish to Gd, we all wish, that you could have been given the opportunity to show such characteristics while facing down much more innocuous black snakes. But there is certainly no one who has lived with her lot or dealt with her demons with more beauty and courage.
And I will forever have that image in my head of you charging towards that snake – showing a strength that the rest of us admired from afar. Yes, you’re full of chesed, love and friendship. But you’re also the strongest, most fearless and determined person I have the privilege to know.

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