In the Eye of the Storm

chavaS (12)

My father is in the hospital sick with COVID. 

It has been many months since words like “coronavirus” “quarantine” and “pandemic” have been coming out of our mouths. Words we never said before. 

Along with those words came a mounting fear; sometimes we could feel the virus breathing down our necks, on the verge of creeping down our throats and up our noses into our lungs.

Sometimes it felt far away- like some problem that wasn’t our own. 

Some of our communities have been ravaged. Insurmountable losses; broken grieving periods.

We’ve needed hugs and love and a shoulder to cry on that wasn’t six feet away. 

Some people have worlds that have barely been touched- perhaps a cold here and there. A fever. A passing sneeze and a return to a semi-regular restricted life. 

I feel like for all this time I have been living alongside the pandemic. Watching in horror, praying for the people who were sickened by this vicious virus and for their families to pull through this nightmare. 

Now it has been my turn to feel as if I was in the center of the storm. 

It was three weeks ago when my father was diagnosed with COVID. As the days passed he became sicker and sicker; till he was struggling to breathe, his fevers raging, his strength zapped by this beast. 

The virus is extremely cruel- the chaos it brings on the body- the boundaries it places between loved ones. I can’t be there. I couldn’t be there to care for him. I’ve waited for news every second of the last few weeks, praying that there would be a sign that things were turning around. 

It’s been difficult to get him the medical care he needed. It took to the very last second; when it was so intense that it became severe, for him to be allowed into the hospital. The hospitals are flooded with extremely ill patients. He needed to be in the hospital long before he was admitted, but there was no room. They were saving spots for people even sicker than he. 

We are in the middle of a pandemic that is out of control. 

I can’t describe the rage, frustration, and fear when you can’t be there for someone you love. When you can’t get them the help they need. Even with lungs free of the virus, I felt suffocated and terrified. 

I am endlessly grateful for the care that he is receiving now. Last week, I was afraid that the worst would come. Now with medical care and buoyed by the prayers of thousands of people, I have hope that he is on the road to recovery. It’s bumpy and confusing and full of anxiety but in the last few days, we have seen real progress. The last few days we have had the opportunity to take a deep breath and thank God that today was a better day. 

We still have a way to go. I ask that you pray for his continued recovery. The minute people started to pray the energy shifted, and I pray that it continues to be for the good. 

For now, I can only express my endless gratitude for the support and love my family has received. We are comforted because we know that faith and prayer can make real change in our physical world and that God is the ultimate healer. 

Please pray for Harav Yitzchak Itamar Ben Sheindel.

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Shira Lankin Sheps grew up in New Jersey and went to Stern College for women. After graduating from Hunter College School of Social Work with her MSW in clinical social work, she worked in the clinical field, in marketing and photojournalism.

She decided to start The Layers Project to help break down stigma and promote healing within our Jewish community.

She feels strongly about presenting women, who are so often shown as shallow characters or fully removed from Jewish media spaces, as three-dimensional individuals whose lives are full and rich with resilience.

Shira made aliyah with her family two years ago to Jerusalem.

Headshot taken by Tzipora Lifchitz.