עודכן: 24 באוג׳ 2021
“There’s no way I’m boarding a flight to New York with you!” she told me, while sitting in an untidy corner in a crowded and foul-smelling room in the Kfar Saba Hospital. “Noga, I’m getting you out of here and we’re going to fly to New York to see a doctor. Listen to me for once!” I raised my voice. “We’re not going shopping, you don’t need to look good! We’re going to meet someone that’ll heal you! Don’t you want to live?”
She shrank and walked away, her skin was yellow, eyes dry, her mouth dry and full of blisters. Even slight movements of her eyelids caused painful scratches in her eyes, and every sip of juice stuck to the roof of her mouth, due to a lack of moisture. “This life isn’t good for you, Noga, my beauty, my fashionista, full of aestheticism and beauty. What are you doing in this crummy hospital?”
I had to get her out of here, but she didn’t want to, she didn’t have the energy.
The tickets to New York had been purchased, the hotel had been booked, and the meeting with Dr. Seidman was approved, but she refused to get on the flight. “Dr. Andy Seidman, we won’t be arriving,” I told him in a phone call. “How are we going to save her?” I asked this foreign doctor, which I put all of my hopes in. I told myself, You should give her some rest, why are you so obsessed with saving her? You’re just her coach. I didn’t have an answer to my own question.
The serene voice from the other side of the world called me by my first name, “Dalia, it’s Andy. I’m here for you, send me her medical tests, scans, and everything else. Don’t worry, I’ll help you from afar, I won’t leave you. I’ll talk to and advise her doctor in Israel. I’m with you!” I sent him Noga’s test results and further materials every day, and he replied. Noga stabilized and was able to go back home.
Just like every other day, I sent him our daily email and got an automated response: “I’m out of the office.” How didn’t I know? Where are you Andy? I walked around the house until a light bulb turned on in my head. I know, he’s in Israel! He came here to ride in Wheels of Love with other doctors.
I called Andy’s secretary in New York. “Janine, tell me, is Dr. Seidman in Israel?”.
“Dr. Seidman is on vacation this week, I don’t know much about his personal life” she replied in a dry, matter-of-fact tone.
Surely he’s in Israel, I thought to myself. I remember reading somewhere that he’s an amateur biker. I didn’t know much about Andy, whether he’s a Jew or a fan of Israel, but I decided to take the risk and call him.
“Andy, are you in Israel riding in Wheels of Love?” “Yes Dalia, I’m here!” I almost fainted, I was barely able to tell him: “me too, I’m arriving tomorrow to ride. I’ll update you when and where we’ll meet, see you tomorrow!”
I didn’t have any idea what Wheels of Love was, but I knew I wasn’t going to give up on him. He’s here and he’ll see my Noga. I called up all of my athletic friends. “Sign me up. I want to be part of this journey!”
A day later and I’m already dressed in the event’s official biking clothes, geared up just like any other biker in the journey. I sent Andy a message, “Tomorrow morning we’ll meet at the starting point of the race’s last day. I’ll be there with my red and white Pinarello bike, and here’s my picture.” I sent him a picture of myself and started to pray that my plan would work. I’ll stick by him during the difficult climb to Nes Harim and he won’t be able to get rid of me until he agrees to see Noga!
6 AM, the Race’s Starting Point
500 bikers reached the starting point and everyone looked the same: wearing the journey’s yellow and blue shirts, black biking pants, a helmet, bandana and sunglasses, gathered together in Britannia park’s parking lot, and I’m busy looking for Andy. How was I supposed to recognize him?
I heard a familiar voice behind me “Dalia, it’s a pleasure seeing you here!” I turned around and there was my dear friend Adina.
“Wow! Adina, have you been here since the beginning of the journey? Have you met a biker named Andy Seidman? I’m desperate for help.”
“Of course!” she replied. “I’ll find him for you!”
I waited, covered by cold sweat. I had to find him, I needed him to save Noga. “Dalia, calm down, everything will be alright”, I told myself.
Right then, a pleasant voice called my name. “Dalia, I finally have the pleasure of meeting you.” It was Dr. Andy Seidman in the flesh.
“Me too,” I replied in a quiet voice, barely able to speak.
I followed him and we started climbing the mountain to Jerusalem, side by side, wheel by wheel, slowly but surely. As the ascent became more challenging, Andy started to pant. He was having a hard time, he told me he felt like his quads were going to contract, that he felt like he’s going to fall. I gave him an energy gel, abundant with caffeine and sugars, and I told him “Andy, everything’s ok, you can do it!” He told me: “Listen to me Dalia, I think I understand something. You’re not really here for Wheels of Love, you came here to stick to me during the hard climbs and persuade me to take care of your friend”, “That’s the truth, Andy! I want you to save my friend!”
“And I promise I’ll do that. Tell her to meet me tomorrow in Tel-Aviv. I’m committed to the both of you 24/7!” For a moment there I thought I was in a movie, I pinched myself to make sure it’s real.
We stopped talking and started riding up the steep hill in silence, we arrived at the peak and entered the gates of the ALYN Children’s Hospital, greeted by ventilated children in wheelchairs that gave us medals, and we fell into each other's arms and started crying like little kids.
From that day on we talked on the phone every day. Test results were sent, and tips and help were received from Andy, with a lot of love and care. Until Noga’s condition got worse. This time, Andy was the one that called me. I told him Noga isn’t in her usual state, she stopped fighting back. “Something isn’t right, Andy,” I told him.
“Dalia, please sit down. I need to have an important conversation with you.” I sat down on the sofa near the kitchen and I listened, though I didn’t want to. “Dalia, listen. Noga understands that it’s time to say goodbye. If there was something, anything else, that I could do, I would tell you to get on a plane with her and come here. But Noga already knows the end is coming.”
I didn’t want to hear it so maybe I didn’t listen at all. I drove straight to the hospital and said to her, “Noga, have some more rest, I’ll move in with you, I’ll train you. We’ve started over many times before, don’t worry. You’ll get stronger and we’ll climb Nes Harim again. Noga, you can do it!”
She didn’t say anything, she simply caressed my face with her hand.
And the next day, she passed on to the next life.
“Dalia, it’s Andy, you did everything you could. Thanks to you she lived a good life, full of joy, beauty, and meaning. Don’t cry, I’ll come back and we’ll climb the hill to Jerusalem together. We’ll be Team Noga, our ride will commemorate her forever!”
Two years after Noga passed away, and Andy and I were biking together again, sitting on the Dead Sea’s shore, and talking about Noga.
However, this time, during the ascent, Andy told me, “Dalia, I give up. I didn’t train, I’m not ready for this”. And this time, not as usual, I didn’t pressure you, I didn’t tell you “Andy, you can do it!”. I simply let him board the safe, air conditioned bus, and I finished the route on my own.
Something changed in me, I realized you can’t always say you can do it. I can also release and let go.
Noga, I’m sorry that when you wanted to part ways with me on your last day, I didn't let you go. I didn’t give you the opportunity to say goodbye and tell me what you would like me to do for you after you’ve gone.
I realized there’s certain moments in life, in which you have to stop being the coach that always says “you can do it!”. Sometimes you just need to be there, to hug, to accept and let go.
Noga and the studio's girls on a biking trip in Rome
Noga in the studio's trip to Montenegro
The Grumpies - my biking team in Wheels of Love