Jews have a custom. On the anniversary of the death of a loved one, we light a candle that burns for 24 hours, so that one day in the year, we remember our people. On the eve of the first day of the Shavu'ot holiday, as I always do, I lit a yahrzeit candle for Rabbi Charisse Natalie Kranes, z"l.
I lost my best friend to cervical cancer in 1989. Charisse was 28 and recently ordained as a rabbi when the abdominal pain that bothered her during her final months in school did not go away upon ordination and moving for a new job. The diagnosis? Cancer.
Charisse accomplished much in the few years she had. She studied in Israel twice, sang like an angel, married her true love, and achieved her dream of becoming a rabbi and serving as the spiritual leader for several congregations.
She was a good friend from the time we were teens. We went to Young Judaea conventions and summer camp together. I followed her to study in Israel. Even after "growing up," Charisse and I always managed to stay connected.
Yesterday marks the 18th anniversary of Charisse's death. She's now been dead longer than the time we knew each other. But I still mourn her untimely loss. We were supposed to grow old and grey together, the way my mother has shared her life with her high school friends. Instead, I got cancer too. I only hope I face my cancer journey with as much grace as Charisse did.
Zichrona livracha, may her memory be a blessing.