Houston January 20, 2001

Dearest Susie,

Unbelievable as it seems, four years have almost passed since that phone call in the middle of the night - the call I can never forget. One in the morning, I hear your voice telling me that they had come to tell you that Yonatan had died in South Lebanon. You asked me to call our mother, saying you couldn't face telling her. We mumbled a few more words, you asked me if I wanted you to wait with the funeral - to give me time to come over. But I could tell you did not want to wait and I can't remember whether we said good-bye or not, but I remember my body turn to ice and I could not stop shaking. The call to Mary was the second worst in my life. I knew I was bringing her the news that would hurt her more than any other - the grandchild in whose eyes the sun rose and set was no longer.

Yonatan, Omer, and Ellie (Summer, 1992)

As time went by we began to learn the details of his death. We heard how the bomb had gone off and he had lain there directing the medic to his soldiers, how the army had taken a long time to fly in the evacuation helicopter, wanting to make sure there were no further ambushes. We heard that he had all the time joked or talked with his men, making sure they took precautions, trying to keep their spirits up, complaining only that he could not feel his legs. Nothing we heard surprised us. It seemed pure Yonatan. It was simultaneously horrifying and totally believable. Of course Yonatan worried about his soldiers before himself. Of course he still operated on a feeling of total responsibility for the "Zirkelonim." What else would Yonatan do? It was natural that when the doctor arrived on the rescue helicopter he dealt with the other wounded before turning to Yonatan, fooled by Yonatan's complete commitment to his charges.

I watched you from the distance, read or listened to second-hand reports. I remember walking into a supermarket here and seeing your face plastered across the front of one of the Israeli newspapers on sale. I felt that same chill again as I looked into the terrible, naked grief of a mother who had lost... no, not a son, but who had lost Yonatan. I had seen too many of those pictures before and they had always moved me but this was a face I knew too well, this was a part of me and who I am and I had to sit out in the car for a while before I could drive home.

People talk of the stages of grief but that suggests an end, or at least a coming to terms. I'm no longer sure that is always possible. I have watched you struggle through the years and you have displayed a bravery that has truly inspired me. It has not been the bravery of carrying on as if nothing had happened but the bravery of dealing openly with your loss, your grief, and your very justified anger.

Working on this Web site is tremendously rewarding. I feel closer to Yonatan than I have at any time since his death. It has been cathartic, feeling both the sadness over and over as I work on a page or picture, and the truly wonderful emotions that Yonatan continues to inspire. I witness the gratitude of the people who appreciate a chance to share Yonatan. I watch as Yonatan provides something to those who visit his site. He continues to be such an example to so many. There is no denying the pain of facing the life so suddenly arrested. There is a Yonatan that I continually struggle to make out, the Yonatan of today, who would be soon turning 26. I can't quite see him and that is immensely sad. However, it has been a rare privilege and a wonderful feeling to have Yonatan at my shoulder, watching as I put the pages together. Every now and then we share a wry smile over something someone says but I think he is, justifiably, very proud of himself.

Your loving brother,

Mark

       
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