friendship, levaya, love, memories, Stella, Tzurya Kochevet bat Sarah

Saying Goodbye to My Rockstar

“Do not press me to leave you, to turn back from following you, for where you go, I will go and where you sleep, I will sleep; your people is my people and your Gd is my Gd. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.” The Book of Ruth

For the last 16 years, Stella and I have lived out the modern version of the story of Naomi and Ruth on the international stage from Potomac, Maryland to Neve Daniel, Israel. From our beginning under the starry sky of the sukkah, we have stood by each other and been as one people. Sometimes I was Naomi, leading Stella on the path and guiding her. Other times, she was Naomi to my Ruth, guiding me and showing me the way.

When we met, Stella was Naomi, inviting us into their home that night when Yarden scared us in the Glashofer’s sukkah. She embraced us with that warm smile and delicious food, as only she could, inviting us to a community meal. As we started to think about life in Potomac, Stella and Yarden guided us, invited us for more meals and embraced us with enthusiasm and warmth.

Through the years, as we moved in to the cul de sac in Potomac and started to build our lives, we carried each other through. We gave birth to Matan and Rivka within 9 days of each other, and Stella continued to be Naomi, leading the way and helping me through my first pregnancy, my first experience as a mom.

I love this picture…baby 6, not 1…but it’s so typically us with Stella always watching out for me and quietly in the background.

Then, on the night that we told the two of them, on Rosh Hashanah of 2003, that we were picking up and making Aliyah, I became Naomi to Stella’s Ruth. I put out my hand, and led Stella to the land to which we all dreamed of arriving. And we opened up the possibility that the dream might really come true.

In the summer of 2005, I was once again Naomi, welcoming all of the Frankls with open arms as they descended from the plane to their homeland. ” Where you go, I will go, and where you sleep, I will sleep; your people is my people and your God is my Gd.” And we were reunited yet again.  I remained Naomi for a while, carrying Stella metaphorically through the trials and tribulations of Aliyah and watching her, and her family, flourish. Stella approached every task with zeal, every challenge with enthusiasm. Whether it was learning Hebrew and studying for every exam or it was making friends or finding new chesed projects to enjoy, she was always in the thick of things.

And as Stella got grounding here in Israel, she often became Naomi to my Ruth, teaching me lessons about friendship, modesty, chesed and kindness. As her Hebrew name says, she has always been my rock and my star. She was always the rock – grounded, the one to turn to, the one to rely on..but she was also the star – the one to reach for, the example to try to emulate.

And then Stella got sick. And you would think that I would have become Naomi for good, leading her through the terrible time. But even throughout the sickness, our roles were often reversed. Soon after her diagnosis, she cornered me in her kitchen. “Romi” she began, “Are you ok?” And I wanted to laugh, or cry. “Am I ok?” And that was our Stella. She was often Naomi during her illness, racing up the stairs when we all wanted the elevator, jumping out of bed to make dinner when she could, inviting people who had made chesed meals in order to say thank you; giving brachot to the woman with the cart who came through offering chesed meals at Sharei Tzedek, always having an ear for her problems and a kind word for her deeds. Naomi was constantly setting the example for me, her Ruth.

And now, of course, I have become Naomi for a final time. You did it Stella. You transformed yourself in the course of your lifetime so many times, embracing Judaism, embracing Israel, and leading your family to a life of promise and beauty here in the hills of Gush Etzion. Look at all that you’ve accomplished in your far too short life. Look at the people who are here today to celebrate your journey and your incredible spirit. 

“Where you go, I will go…your people is my people …where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.”

“Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.” Today, we embrace those words once again in our lives as I, Naomi, literally carry my Ruth to her final resting place. Often times the choices that we get to make in our lives are more powerful than the things that are thrust upon us. You chose Judaism and embraced it with a fervor that few could hope to emulate. And you chose me as a sister on the journey through life. I will forever be grateful for that choice. Josh and I promise to keep your family close to our hearts forever as we lead you today on your final journey. And, in Stella fashion, we must thank the community of people here, in Potomac and through Sharei Tzedek and around the world who have held the Frankls and us, embraced us and helped us through. And we must offer a special thanks to the incredible medical team in Neve Daniel who jumped in with such compassion and direction at the end.

My dear Ruth, my Stella. Your people are, indeed, my people. Your Gd is mine. “Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.”

Rest in peace and love, my dear friend.

I love you forever, my rock star, Stella.

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