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It was the day after Simchat Torah, but instead of reveling in the blissful exhaustion that accompanies the conclusion of the Jewish holidays, my siblings, mother and I sat in a hospital waiting room while my father underwent emergency open-heart surgery. The doctor had said that the procedure could take six hours and that we shouldn’t expect to hear anything in the interim. As the minutes crawled by, we silently prayed and poked half-heartedly at a jigsaw puzzle that someone had brought to pass the time.
At some point, my sister left to go to the restroom. Seconds after she disappeared into the hallway, I heard her cry, “Dr. L!!!” Without stopping to consider whether or not it was appropriate (it wasn’t), I shot out of my seat and took an ice dancer’s flying leap into the embrace of one of the most prestigious surgeons at one of New York City’s busiest hospitals. Ever since removing a cancerous tumor from my lung in that hospital 11 months prior (what can I say, it was an interesting year), Dr. L. had held celebrity status among my family, both for his medical expertise and for his one-in-a-million bedside manner. We quickly brought him up to speed on why we were there and—desperation winning out over manners—asked if he might be able to get any information for us.
He immediately offered to go into the operating room himself to check on things. He vanished and reappeared a moment later, having swapped his shirt and tie for scrubs before heading in. Several minutes passed and he was back with the update: everything was going smoothly and the surgeon was very happy. Just like that, the air rushed back into the room. And we breathed.
I have thought about that moment countless times since then—a moment that, in my eyes, is the definition of beshert. Not only was there no explanation for why Dr. L. would be strolling down that hall at that moment (and with spare time on his hands!), but if my sister had waited another 30 seconds to go to the restroom, we would have never known he was there.
Now, when the world feels too unpredictable, I remind myself that sometimes the exact thing we need is something we would never think to ask for, and that sometimes it—or he—is right around the corner. And I breathe.
Rachel Jager lives with her husband and three children in Livingston, New Jersey. Contrary to popular belief, she did not become a freelance writer just to have an excuse to drink endless amounts of coffee (but it is her favorite perk).
Top photo: Rachel with her dad, Gary Chasser, two weeks after his 2019 heart surgery, on the Long Branch, New Jersey, boardwalk.