They say that some people are naturally cheerful, and this grants them emotional protection from their troubles throughout their lives. Whether she was born with it, or it was the result of growing up in a loving and responsive family, RivkA Matitya z”l had this quality. And her cheerfulness was infectious.
RivkA died last Friday from breast cancer. We became friends in college, back when she was known as Karin Zuckerman, and our lives intersected again here in Israel. She and I shared many “causes” over the years including Judaism, breastfeeding and blogging.
At the funeral, Rabbi Brovender said that everything about RivkA was there for all to see. This was true regarding her love for her husband and her children, her love for Israel, and her desire to help mothers and babies. This was also true regarding her views on the many issues vitally important to her. You never needed to guess where she stood. As Rabbi Brovender pointed out, RivkA gave other opinions a fair hearing, but remained true to her beliefs. On the rare occasions that she changed her mind, after long consideration of the facts, she would speak out equally strongly about her new point of view.
Needless to say, you didn’t always agree with RivkA. But even when she didn’t succeed in bringing you around to her way of thinking, you left the discussion unsettled by the strength of her conviction. Because of the respect she engendered, and her passion for her cause, it was impossible to disregard her. And part of that passion remained with you long after the details of the discussion were no longer relevant.
When people disagree strongly, the relationship may remain tense for a time. That never happened with RivkA. After the most heated discussions her smile stayed just as warm, her hug just as tight. You never needed to guess where you stood. RivkA’s friends stayed her friends–for life.
I will never forget RivkA, nor, I believe, will anyone who has met her.
Few people are able to live their ideals the way that RivkA did. When she learned she had a limited amount of time left, she knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish. Her illness limited her, but she viewed it as a minor inconvenience. She continued to do what she had always done, only more so: giving her family what they needed, and making the world a better place. And above all, spreading her unlimited cheer and optimism to her friends, the blogosphere, and indeed, all of humanity.
Yehi zichrah baruch. May her memory be for a blessing.
You can read RivkA’s writing, and get links to memorials about her, at her blog, Coffee and Chemo.
Leilui nishmat RivkA bat Yishaya z”l.