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I Miss You, Raymond!

Friday, 21 September, 2012 - 10:16 am

Since coming to Luzern, or actually in my whole life, I have never had such a Rosh Hashana experience as this year.  I can share with you many inspirational feelings and moments, which I had over the course of the holiday. There was the elderly woman, a holocaust survivor, who had heard the Shofar the last time in Budapest close to 70 years ago, and this year she decided for the first time to follow my wife’s invitation and come to listen to the sound of the Shofar once again. Then there was another Jew, who for the first time in his life, held a Torah Scroll in his hands. Of course, the bare fact that about 150 Jews passed through our doors during the holiday, is inspirational on its own.

However, what will cause me never to forget this Rosh Hashana, is a very tough, personal experience which I went through on the 14th floor of the Luzern Kantonsspital, on the second day of Rosh Hashana.

In the late afternoon hours of the second day of Rosh Hashana, I was on my way, by foot, together with Chazan Eli, to visit my dear friend Raymond Jones who was lying in the hospital, on the 14th floor, in critical condition.

When I walked in, I passed by the information desk, and asked the man sitting there, where are the stairs? He looked at me, pointed to the left and said: “The elevator is there.” I ask if it is possible to use the stairs. Since it was late, I preferred to skip the whole explanation about not being allowed to use an elevator on the holiday. He smiles at me: “We need more ‘green’ people like you. The door opposite the elevator will lead you to the staircase…”.

Ten minutes later… we arrive, breathing heavily, to the 14th floor and I immediately turn to room 1482. Just before I enter,  I see a nurse and decide to ask her first how Raymond was doing.

From the look on her face I already understood everything.

She goes on to tell me with a clear and strong voice the bitter news - Raymond passed away this morning at 5.

Eventhough it was not a complete shock for me, I feel like a five-kilo hammer was banging on my heart.

Raymond is gone.

I feel the need to go into the room where I last saw him lying, but the nurse tells me the room is already occupied by someone else.

So I ask her for permission to simply stand at the door for a few minutes. She agrees. I sstand in front of the door, close my eyes and review in my mind, my last goodbye from him, this past Motzaei Shabbat.

I came to visit him just after Shabbat was over. I’m not a doctor, but when I arrived there I understood that the situation was not good at all. And I felt the need to do what I knew Reuven would want me to do.

He was lying in his bed, barely conscious, not connecting to his surroundings. Next to his bed was his friend, Susanne Borek.

I went up to him, shook his hand and said:”Reuven, Shavua tov!” (Raymond always liked me to call him by his Hebrew name). He opened his left eye completely and said “Chaim!”  That’s all I needed.

I opened the siddur, while still holding his hand and said with him, word by word, “Shema Yisrael A-donay E-lohenu A-donay echad” and he repeated word for word. I continued to say the text of the ‘viduy’ (confession)…

When I finished off with the song, which he so loved- ‘Adon Olam’, I saw a smile on his face.

After he told me “Thank You” clearly, only to go back unconscious, I broke down and my tears just kept coming.

This past Wednesday afternoon, when I stood in front of the coffin at the Levaye (funeral) I said the following words:


I remember like today, the first time we met ten years ago at the Chanuka Party in Luzern. I remember the eternal smile on your face.

I’ll tell you the truth, in the beginning of our relationship I was sure that because of the ‘tzores’ and problems you went through, you might have lost a bit of your sanity. How can a person be alone without a partner, without children, and all this with a body which is half paralyzed and almost completely blind!!??

Therefore I decided that I must help you. And so, almost every Wednesday we would meet either at your home, or at the Chabad Center in Zug, for a Torah class, a cup of coffee and to put on the Tefillin. In the beginning I came with all my best intentions to help and to give you of my time. However, very soon, I learned that it is you who is giving me of his time no less, and maybe even much more…

In our meetings I realized that you are much more sane than many other people who have many things in their lives, which you have not merited to have. And I wanted to learn from you how you did it?

True, I only got to know you in the last ten of your 63 years, but I learned so much from you.

I learned from you how to strongly believe in G-d. I learned from you to be truly happy with life.

When you asked me to buy you Tefillin about 5 years ago, and then every time we met thereafter, when I saw you putting them on and davening (praying), I learned another important thing from you – praying with Kavana (true intention), out of sincere belief that G-d is listening to every word which you are saying to Him.

It is no wonder that people loved to simply be around you. Your warmth, happiness, wisdom and belief together with your unbelievable memory, gave everyone a desire to socialize with you again and again.

Even though you had all the reasons in the world to think only about yourself, you never stopped helping and worrying about others.

If we needed a tenth for the Minyan, you were there immediately. If we needed a good electrician to fix something, you right away found me someone. Whenever or whatever you only could, you were there to help.

Before every Jewish holiday, you sent us flowers, and at every family Simcha, you celebrated with us like a family member.

Reuven, you always used to tell me:”I might be alone, but I’m not lonely, because I have good friends”. It’s a pity you cannot see all your friends who have gathered here together and miss you so.

With G-d’s help, I promise you, we will find a way to eternize your name!

I’m asking you, in the name of all of us, if ever we have hurt you or not treated you with the proper respect, please forgive us.

Indeed, you did not leave any children who could say Kaddish, but I have organized for someone to say Kaddish for you every day in the first year, as well as each year on your Yahrtzeit, which we will never forget – the second day of Rosh Hashana.

Shabbat Shalom!

Raymond Jones – his Jewish name: Reuven ben Gedalya and Leah haKohen
was born in the year 1948


Comments on: I Miss You, Raymond!

Doris Etsionz wrote...

I am deeply touched by this story and you made really lots of Mitzwoth for your friend Raymond s.l. That he passed away 2nd day of Rosh HaShana reminded me that my father s.l. passed away the 2nd day of Shawuot and my mother s.l. the 2nd day of Sukkot.

Nur of Simches!
Gmar Chatima Tova
Doris Etsiony

Felsher wrote...

Thank you from a world away about Ratmond

Shabbat shalom

Susan Bilar wrote...

Chaim.. Every word you wrote about Raymond
is true. He was a special person who inspite of his very serious health problems was always positive, and always had a warm smile. We were priviledged to have known him and were always happy to have him join us going and coming from services. He was intelligent and had a good sense of humor.
Raymond indeed will be missed by us and his many friends in our community.
You ,Chaim have been an exeptional friend to Raymond . He often mentioned to us, that he really appreciated your caring company, and your religious and intellectual exchange .
Raymond is no longer with us but his spirit will remain in our community.
Gmar chatima tova to all

Ze'ev wrote...

Very warm words. Your fan from up north!

John Cohen wrote...

I had known Raymond from the time he lived in London, and we were in our 20's.
Sadly I have been trying to contact him, being unaware of his passing.
I live in the USA now, and would like to visit his grave.
Can someone please give me more information.

Harriet Cohen wrote...

What beautiful words you have written about
my cousin Raymond. He will be missed in California. We saw him last year at my Grandsons Bar Mitzvah in Denver Co. The family was all together at my Daughter's. We all loved him very much. When he lived in Calif. we saw him often.We will miss him. Harriet

Rhonda Brandes wrote...

As I think about Raymond on the first anniversary of his passing, my heart is filled with a mixture of sadness and joy. The beautiful words spoken are just a drop in the bucket about how we feel about Raymond. As I reflect on our connection to Raymond, he and my husband Richard met in NYC where they both worked for Nova Park from 1982-1985, in the 1985 he was the reason we moved to Maryland (Rehau Plastice in Leesburg, VA) where we raised our family, that was 28 years ago....where has the time gone. He attended our wedding in 1983 in Boston, came to visit us in MD and became a part of our children's lives. He was one of the kindest, most gentle person and so accepting of his lot in life. His mother was a kind and generous woman and the apple of his eye!
May his memory be for a blessing as we think about him now and always.
With much love, Rhonda, Richard, Emily & Joshua Brandes

Anne Weir wrote...

I had my Christmas card I sent to Raymond returned recently. I had no idea that he had dies and so set about reacing him o the internet to see if he had moved. I found your Blog and so have received the sad news today. I meet Raymond in 1994 at the Konton Spital in Zug. I had just started as a Physiotherapist there and Raymond was one of my first patients. He arrived with his delightful Mother and I started to take down his details in my shaky German. Raymond quickly interrupted in his beautiful English accent and inquired it I would prefer to speak in English. That was the start of a long friendship. I got to know him and his Mother from his frequent visit to the hospital. It was very hard for Raymond when his Mother passed away but he carried on and never let standards slip. I was invited to his apartment on many occasions fro English tea and visited him on his holidays to the hotel in Weggis. He visited me in hospital when I had my first baby and presented me with a team of little yellow bath ducks! He was a very kind man, extremely bright and interesting who had a great many friends. I have been back in the UK for many years now and haven't seen Raymond for a long time but Itoo will miss him.
Anne Weir