From the Rabbi’s Desk October 2018
Rabbi Carla Freedman
For the last couple of years, I have used this space at this time of year…right after the High Holy Days…to bring to your attention the plight of our congregant, Amy Mogil. And so, it is that season again… Amy is a long-term resident of the skilled nursing wing at Palm Garden, here in Sun City Center. She is barely old enough to qualify as a resident of our retirement community, but has already lived at Palm Garden for about 8 years. Amy has Multiple Sclerosis (or, as my late brother-in -law, John Feld, who also had it, used to say, “multiple *^!#ing sclerosis), and uses an electric wheelchair to get around.
Amy is divorced, and has a son who is now married and a father himself; he lives in the D.C. area, and is not good about keeping in touch with his mother.
Four years ago, Amy contacted the temple because she was being vigorously proselytized by visiting Christian clergy at Palm Garden. So I began to visit her, and then I recruited others to do that. Barbara Grossman goes Mondays, Janet Corin goes Tuesdays, I go Wednesdays, Barbara Nova goes Thursday, Shulamit Saeger (and Buddy, her dog) goes Fridays, Dan Barwick goes Saturdays and Alla Barwick goes Sundays. All of these people will tell you that Amy is bright, funny, decidedly Jewish, and remarkably cheerful…most of the time. She is unfailingly polite and appreciative of whatever attention or help she gets.
Until this past spring, her regular Sunday visitor was her boyfriend, Phil. They met years ago in a different rehab facility. Then Amy moved to SCC, and Phil moved to Lakeland. They spoke multiple times daily, and he visited her every week, spending the whole day with her, and brought all kinds of khazerai as snacks for the week. This spring, Amy did not hear from him for several days, so she called the police to check on him (Phil also used a wheelchair), and they found him dead. This has been a terrible blow to Amy, whose loneliness has increased as she has dealt with this loss.
Also this year, suddenly, all of the companies we used to bring Amy to temple for Shabbat morning services simply were no longer available for casual usage, because they had become the only transport for Medicare dialysis patients who use wheelchairs. Thanks to the diligence of Dan and Alla Barwick, we found a company that will bring Amy to us, and so we brought her for the first morning of Rosh haShanah and for the morning of Yom Kippur. And we intend to bring her for Shabbat mornings, going forward (for several reasons, evening services are not manageable for Amy).
The bright moment this past year, due to the attention and determination of Barbara Grossman, was a trip for Amy to a ranch in north Tampa which provides horseback rides for people with disabilities. There she actually rode a horse…something that was on her “bucket list”. We gave this to her in May as a belated birthday gift…and she was thrilled. Barbara Grossman packed a picnic lunch, and Janet Corin accompanied Amy in the van. Dan Barwick drove from his home in Parrish to Tampa, picked up a wheelchair van, then picked up Amy in SCC and drove her to the ranch; then later reversed the whole thing…
I am telling you all this because I need to ask your help, going forward. Each trip to temple costs $85.00. The trip to the ranch was about double that. So, as part of your High Holy Day attention to tzedakah, which means “doing the right thing”, I am hoping you will make a donation to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund, specifically marked “Amy’s Transport”, or something like that, so that we can bring her more regularly to temple.
If you would like to join the little group of us who visit Amy regularly, please contact me; we need substitutes because all of us have occasions when we cannot go, and the days are very long and undifferentiated when we don’t get there. The staff at Palm Garden tells me that we have made a huge difference to Amy’s mood and we must continue doing that. Visiting Amy is a mitzvah that gives the visitor at least as much as it gives Amy. Your kindness and generosity will be much appreciated.