Celebrating our marriage by preparing my divorce

26 August 2022

“Maybe his pupils aren’t responding because of the sedation”.

My blood ran cold. I was sitting in the cardiac intensive care unit of Shaare Zedek hospital, at my husband’s bedside. Two days earlier, he had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest after a game of squash. Multiple shocks had been necessary to restart his heart during a prolonged resuscitation and he was now recuperating, still ventilated and sedated

A nurse had just shined a flashlight in Leonard’s eyes, but got no response. The nurse called for reinforcements. “Can you try?” he asked a more experienced coworker. She tried, but was unsuccessful. “Maybe his pupils aren’t responding because of the sedation,” she said. Maybe. She wasn’t sure…

Sitting at Leonard’s bedside that afternoon, in a moment when fear was stronger than hope, I found myself wondering, “Could this be the rest of my life?” What would happen if my husband remained alive, but his brain no longer functioned properly? Might I never again hear his keen insights, marvel at his compassion, and enjoy his sharp wit? Might he never again be my trusted companion, my confidante, and my source of confidence and reassurance? For the briefest of moments, there was a flash of awareness that I might never experience such companionship from anyone else either, because in Jewish law, a man who is not cognitively intact cannot grant his wife a get (a bill of Jewish divorce). In such a situation, the woman may become an agunah — a woman “chained” in marriage against her will because her husband is not able to divorce her. I banished the thought immediately and focused only on my husband’s recovery.”

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