Danny and I are in the living room, watching television.
A knock comes at the door.
A quick look at the clock: who could it be at this hour?
Not much time to think.
The door opens slowly. Eyal comes in.
Our hearts sink. Our legs cannot move. The blood drains from our bodies.
Something has happened…
Fractured thoughts in a split second, connected by a terrible gut feeling. Something has happened. Something bad. Something awful.
Eyal? At this hour?
A terrible sense of doom. The world around us turns over, confused. What’s happened? What’s wrong? Who’s in trouble? What disaster has brought him to us now?
And Eyal says, still at the door, “Mom, Dad, it’s Ido. He’s a bit lost… But they’re on their way to him. They’re looking for him. They said they know where he is. They promised to find him. They’ll reach him soon…”
The sky falls. Everything closes in on us. The mind cannot absorb this. Every cell in our bodies cries out. A sharp knife of pain digs into each part of the body with massive force. Breathing stops. No air…
Nir and Inbar come in with someone else. His doctor’s bag gives him away. A doctor? They bring doctors when there’s been a tragedy. No. No. No. It can’t be.
What do they know that we do not understand? That we do not get?
We send the doctor away and remain with ourselves. Ourselves and the whole world. Eyal and Nir are constantly on the phone. They try to get hold of Ifat, who is on her way to Iceland. They talk with her as soon as she lands. They talk, and talk again, with the Foreign Ministry’s situation room. With the Israeli embassy in Oslo (which oversees Iceland). With the honorary consuls of Iceland in Israel and Israel in Iceland. With search and rescue experts. With the Icelandic police. With the head of the search and rescue team in Iceland. With this person and that person… Trying to find out, to get some information. To convince them to send out a search helicopter.
The updates drip through:
Ido started the trek today.
He called Ifat in London… he needs help… caught in a blizzard… everything is white around him… the snow has covered the path and he can’t find it... can’t find his way to the hut… he’s cold… he needs help…
Ifat managed to extract a few details to help locate him, and then the call was cut off. Someone from the Icelandic police was able to talk to him. They know more or less where he is… They’ve dispatched a search and rescue team from the nearest town. Seventy people are looking for him… The storm is so heavy and the fog so thick that it’s impossible to use a helicopter. Ifat flies from London to Iceland. Israel’s honorary consul will meet her at the airport. She’ll join the search…
Only the day before yesterday, on Friday, we said goodbye to Ido at the airport. Idoli was happy, smiling, wearing a black T-shirt and baggy jeans.
“Take care of yourself, and keep in touch.”
“Mom, what are you worried about? I’m going to one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Six weeks from now I’ll be back here for Nir and Inbar’s wedding.”
A big hug. Kisses. And he was swallowed up in the crowds. Flying to London.
The next day, Saturday, he took a flight to Iceland, where he was planning to travel for two weeks.
What does that mean, “a bit lost”? And what is “they’re looking for him”?
The mind shuts off. The tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth. Each new word increases the darkness. Every new iota of information strengthens the sense of loss. Of futility.
And the thoughts, the thoughts about your child who is out there alone in some unknown land, out there in a snowy white wilderness. Your child is cold. And your overwhelming desire to hold him, to warm him, to lead him to safety…
Hope, hope, hope! Hope for the best! Not let the bad thoughts penetrate! Believe that they’ll find him! They must find him! They said they know where he is, they said they’d reach him. And he said he’d make it.
The brain does not think - but it is wild with thoughts. Ideas are thrown around in between phone calls. What else can be done? Who else can we turn to? Who else can help?
Nir pressures the Icelanders to send a helicopter out. He promises we will cover any cost. The answer is painfully unequivocal: there’s an unusually harsh blizzard. Weather conditions are so bad, you can’t see three feet ahead. There’s no chance for a helicopter. The search and rescue team is well-trained. They will do their very best…
Inquiries about flights to Iceland. What’s the fastest way to get there? We’ll get organized quickly. We’ll get there… We’ll join in the search… Time passes, but the world stops moving. Nothing new… no crumb of information…
Ifat has arrived in Iceland.
It’s 3 a.m. At home more family has gathered. We are all alert, tense, worried but hopeful. We have to keep up the hope… have to believe it will all work out… that soon we will wake up from the nightmare into normal reality…
And then -
Into the dark abyss…
A phone call from Iceland.
The search and rescue people have found… on the mountain… they think… they need identifying signs for the coat... the backpack… the clothes…
A sword-thrust rips through my heart. My boy!!!
I don’t want to understand. Don’t want to take it in. Refuse to accept it.
But reality is cruel. Oh, how cruel!
Ifat is on her way to Hella. Going to “meet” Ido. To identify him.
The urgency leaves no time for the luxury of letting things sink in. Of cutting off.
We have to get to Ifat, quickly.
We consult and decide:
Nir will stay with us and manage things from here.
Eyal will leave on the first flight to Iceland and meet Ifat. Together, they’ll manage the administrative affairs there, and come home.
Eyal is on his way to Iceland. Long hours of flight, alone with himself and his thoughts.
Nir, who did not fly to Iceland so that he could take charge of the operations room at home, takes care of all the necessary arrangements. And there is so much that is necessary!
Early in the morning, in Hella, Iceland, Ifat identifies Ido.
Eyal arrives in the afternoon. All the official offices are closed. They must wait until tomorrow to finish all the procedures.
And then - home.
Three siblings on an airplane.
One of them - in a coffin.
Flight to London. Landing. The coffin is transferred to an El Al plane by Ido’s friends. Ifat says goodbye, temporarily. She will organize her belongings and come to Israel on the next flight.
Eyal continues with Ido on their way home.
Danny, Nir, Hagit, Inbar and myself are at home. Waiting. Long days, days with no beginning and no end. Days of anguished waiting. Days of anxiety.
The house is packed. Our family and close friends are with us all the time. Enveloping us with warmth, and embracing, worrying, protecting. Many people arrive. Relatives, friends, acquaintances. Of Ido, of Eyal, of Nir, of Ifat, of ours. They tiptoe in, hesitant and embarrassed. And we are “coiled up” in the ungraspable being, the terrible grief, gazing at everyone who enters. Trying not to unburden our pain onto those who have come to embrace us. To offer condolences. To try and console.
Wednesday morning. Ben Gurion Airport. The flight from London lands. We meet Eyal in the arrivals hall. Somewhere in the back of the airport, an ambulance pulls up next to us. The back doors open and a white coffin is revealed. We all sob uncontrollably. A veil of tears. A touch. We lay red roses on the cold coffin. The ambulance doors shut. Yossi the driver promises us he will keep Ido that way. In the coffin. Not let anyone touch him.
Shortly before noon, Ifat arrives from London. Nir drives her home from the airport. A painful and tearful reunion. The five of us disconnect from everything going on at home and gather in a room. Stricken with pain and grief, we make decisions about the funeral and burial.
The next day, Thursday morning, we said goodbye forever. In the morgue at Laniado Hospital, we stood facing the open coffin and looked with a broken heart and boundless love at our Ido, his angel face, his calm expression.
And the burial. The cruel and decisive determination of his absence.
The beginning of a journey of torments. A boundless journey into the depths of pain. Of daily remembrance. Of love and overwhelming longing. Of endlessly missing him. Missing his unique persona, his smile, his hug, his look. His touch.