A story of an unlikely friendship no one could separate

Our weekly series continues with a deeply personal story of two friends—one Jewish and one Muslim. Their friendship grew through the years, surviving even a time of painful separation, until … Well, read the story, which was forwarded to us by WISDOM, president and co-founder Gail Katz. WISDOM is the women’s group responsible for our book, “Friendship and Faith,” and this ongoing series of weekly stories. (Please, scroll down on this page to enjoy more stories!) This story was written by Roz’s husband, Dan.

This is the story of Roz and Mirvat, two friends …

Roz had surgery for a rare pituitary tumor and, later, was sent to Boston in the early 1990s for special medical treatment—proton-beam radiation—and it required that she spend the summer of 1991 in Boston. She did so; and afterward she needed to make regular visits to Boston for follow-up examinations by the doctor in charge, Norbert Liebsch. As her prognosis improved, the interval between the follow-ups increased.

But, Roz, always smiling and ever the optimist about these things, greatly impressed Dr. Liebsch—who began to ask her, during these follow-up visits, to give a little pep-talk to incoming patients. One time she spoke to an entire family who were spending the summer in Boston while their 10-year-old son received these special radiation treatments.

It was a great blessing for me, as Roz’s husband, to see how this glum group began to relax and appear at ease as Roz spoke to them about her summer in Boston a few years earlier for these special radiation treatments.

But, Mirvat was a more difficult case. She had already had the surgery twice and this was not a happy time for her and her family, husband and four young children, who also were spending their summer in Boston. Dr. Liebsch asked Roz to speak to them and she did.

Not only did she greatly alleviate their tension and concerns but she was so extremely caring of Mirvat that they developed a mother-daughter relationship, which lasted until Roz died in May of 2008.

Now, Roz was Jewish and Mirvat is Muslim so the relationship took on a special quality. Although Roz and Mirvat met in Boston, Mirvat lives in the Dearborn area of Michigan, which is internationally known for its large Muslim population.

In addition to phone and email communications, Roz quite often went down to Dearborn to lunch with Mirvat and her children. As well, Mirvat and her family visited us in Farmington Hills. This friendship continued for over ten years. After a while, Mirvat’s children began calling Roz “grandma” in Arabic. And, I remember several times Roz advising Mirvat on her return to college.

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Roz did not hear from Mirvat and I remember her asking me if she should call or if I thought maybe Mirvat was put off by the war. Frankly, I didn’t know what to say and I don’t think Roz called Mirvat. It was, I believe, a sad time for both of them.

Jews and Muslims share a religious custom at the end of life: Both communities tend to hold funerals quickly after a death. But, the morning of Roz’s funeral, our phone rang. One of my daughters answered it and she later told me that there was an weeping woman on the phone. It was Mirvat who had just read Roz’s obituary in the morning paper and was distraught. Although they had not been in touch during Roz’s illness—over a year-and-a-half—the bond of friendship was still there.

Mirvat, her husband and one of her sons attended Roz’s funeral and the rabbi who gave the eulogy noted Mirvat’s presence and their relationship. So, it is heart-warming that Roz and Mirvat were able to overcome the terrible divide that exists between our peoples. Roz would have had a beautiful smile if she could have learned that Mirvat was so distraught at her passing and had attended her funeral.

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(Originally published at www.FriendshipAndFaith.com)


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