Reflections from Karen Roekard


Reflections from Karen Roekard’s Reflections in Europe


It’s 11:30 P.M. Warsaw time, Thanksgiving Day, and everyone I know, love or care about is with their family, friends, acquaintances, or community – eating the animal of the day and (or?) taking the time to remember what they have to be thankful for. I had hoped to repeat the conversational aspect of my favorite Thanksgiving, 1976 – the year I spent the day in a motel in San Simeon with my best friend, eating only what we could cook in the fireplace (or raw), partaking of the holy herb, and spending twenty-four hours within the glorious confines of out-the-mouth Kashrut – speaking only of that for which we had to be thankful. By the end of this gratitude practice, we were holy, holy women. And here I am in Warsaw (at the Oki-Doki Hostel), with one of the daughters-I-never-had, the young women who started working as my assistants when they were High School seniors, and sometimes choose to keep putting in some hours when they are older and back in Berkeley. I arrived two nights ago, and already we have put in two days of intense data collection. I told Nadja, the daughter who gets to assist me for these three weeks here and in Ukraine, that I wanted us to spend the day speaking only about that which we have to be thankful for. But, in order to accomplish this – and I could hear my mother asking, “So what did you accomplish today?” – not only did we have to drop the concept, but I completely forgot that it was Thanksgiving, and even over dinner of leftovers and herring, we forgot to talk about what we had to be thankful for. And Nadja is a gift. She is smart, sassy, paradoxical, stubborn and inwardly and outwardly beautiful, though she doesn't know all, or most, of the above. After all, she is 22 and only sees the zits. It is like watching a version of myself, but from the eyes inside a head that is starting to get a wattle. She is hanging out with the kids here, and asks me to let her know when I am off the computer, so that she can Skype her family. I tell her to come get me in an hour. I take care of getting directions to the hostel in Krakow, where we will be spending the weekend and all the other business. I face the massive amount of e-mails that have piled up, and accidentally hit some key on the computer. Next thing I know I have this letter in front of me:



"I do not really know, but her website is still up and there was an event last Sunday. See?


His note was in response to my response (to an earlier note of his)


Thank you, Mark. I have wondered what happened to the young girl who needed the bone marrow transplant. Do you know?


I clicked on the website, and was instantly reminded of this lovely, lovely young girl whose energy in the photo reminded me of mine as a child, another form of daughter I never had, for whom I had meant to register as a bone marrow donor but forgot. I forgot!! How could I possibly have forgotten? Did I really forget? Was it forgetting or for-fearing? Was I afraid? What if I matched, and they wanted to do a bone marrow on me? Would it be really painful? I hate pain . Was it dangerous? I’ll do the cheek swab tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. My to-do list is so long. I should make a new to-do list. So, I make the new to-do list and before you know it, two years have passed. Somehow, one of those times I recopied it, the line that was to remind me to take the few minutes to do the cheek swab, to find out if I am a match – so, that if by some miracle I, who have no children, should be so lucky as to be able to give life to another human being, gets passed over. But its not the good Passover, it’s a really, really sad one. And I have been teary and touched and ashamed and inspired, since I looked at the Amy’s Army website again ( I am thankful that on this Thanksgiving day and night, the Universe has given me another opportunity to make a mekhilah from the painful avayrah of forgetting to save a life. I encourage you who work to be a religious person – you who give charity, who watch out for the widow, the orphan and the stranger, you who keep your holy days and your form of kosher, you who have asked for forgiveness or are forgiven, you who have refrained from killing, stealing, coveting, dishonoring your parents, children or animals you who have watched your speech, spoken out or prayed with your feet on a spiritual path, you who seek to leave your families, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ? Sarah, Rifke, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah – your ancestors who gave you the life thread. I encourage all of you to remember that there is no greater mitzvah, no greater defined action, nothing more important than saving a life! And, of course, there is that saying – I don’t know where it comes from – the life you are saving may be your own. TAKE THE TIME TO REGISTER WITH A BONE MARROW REGISTRY! MAKE THE TIME TO REGISTER WITH A BONE MARROW REGISTRY! I bless you with a year filled with such an abundance of joy, that a day next November won’t be long enough to acknowledge it all.


Karen (Roekard aka Gitel Chaye Eta Rosenfeld Rokart)