Yom Ha Shoah (around 2012)
In the run up to the event, Mrs Smith had written and issued the invitations (despite being ‘retired’ for roughly 7 years already) and acted as the coordinator with the Holocaust Centre for the Survivors and their families.
Every invitation email/letter she had sent, to over 100 people and their families, had been answered by someone saying they could, or couldn’t come. They had shared their latest news, asked for news on Aegis, James, Stephen, the grandchildren, asked for help. Mrs Smith would then of course reply, and so it would go on.
On that day, she’d risen early as usual, got ready and had gone to be at the Holocaust Centre, where for most of the day she was with her Survivor family.
She moved through them all, and talked extensively, ministered to them and helped them, and they loved her. I can’t remember if she spoke at that particular event. She normally did. She was called to speak about those who had passed, that their memory might continue be a blessing. Many Survivors would ask her, “when I die Marina, will you speak about me?”. These eulogies (checked with Stephen and James beforehand) would be beautifully crafted, delivered with an authority and gravitas that few else will ever have.
Then, afterwards, as always, the Survivors would stream over to Bethany. This was the tradition after every event.
Mrs Smith had given her (and Mr Smith’s) first home to be Beth Shalom, Britain’s first Holocaust Memorial.
Bethany, her next home, right next to the Holocaust Centre, she also shared, to be a home for everyone else too. She left very little room for herself.
So, the Survivors would arrive, walking across the small field to be welcomed at Bethany with still more food and the hug that so many have mentioned here already. Everything would have been beautifully prepared. She would have overseen every detail to make sure it was a perfect welcoming home. The food would be perfect. The gardens would be perfect and peaceful.
(It’s worth noting that she planned and planted that garden herself. She wanted it to be place for Survivors and others to come and find respite amidst the peaceful glory of G-d’s creation).
And so, for several hours the Survivors would sit laugh and share this simcha, and Mrs Smith would spend time with each and every one. Often Stephen and James would be there too, and Mr Smith quietly smiling the background, supporting his wife. The place would be filled with laughter
Then the Survivors and their families would leave, comments written in the guestbook, photos take, more hugs. Then the clear up would begin. Mrs Smith would have the place set up for the next day. Some calls would come from Survivors who missed her at the event. A quick cup of tea and a biscuit, making sure her assistants all ate. By then it was about 21:00 / 22:00.
Then began the next part: emails ( with the latest photos attached) and letters. For three hours. It was vital people had their ‘thank-you’ emails waiting for them in the morning. It showed gratitude. Survivors needed to be thanked. Speakers and local dignitaries, other visitors, the Centre’s staff also received thank you notes. She would take time to personalise each and every one, and to make sure that Aegis’ work was shared too.
Then around 01:00 am, she discovered that some of the Survivors had left donations for her to pass on to the Centre. She was exhausted. She had woken up at maybe 07:00am. She was 78 / 79. She was carrying many health problems. But the trust placed in her to give the money to the Centre was more important. The exhaustion showed, just for a moment, but it counted for nothing. More emails. One to the relevant person in the Centre, detailing each donation. Then a personalised email to each donor. Not just a “thank you for donating”, but personalised. Each one was checked and edited. Around 04:00 am, she went upstairs. She had sat for so long that moving was very painful. Visitors were due for lunch around 11:00am, in 7 hours time.
Arriving the next morning, Mrs Smith was already downstairs, preparing for another day of loving and serving people. Bethany was bright and welcoming, as was she.
This is but one vignette in a lifetime of such moments – as many who have written here can testify.
We know that: “Love is patient, kind, without envy or boasting, or pride. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…”
If I may be permitted to add, I witnessed also that Love sacrifices, it labours, it battles, its gives everything.
That is why it never fails
“Though the earth may descend into night, love will rise on the wings of the morning light.”
Stephen recently (perfectly) described her as “an absolute warrior” – and that’s what she was. She was my spiritual mother, she was also my General.
And thus we all remain; witnesses to lifetime of G-d–given righteousness and love, all to the glory of Christ.
In one her last emails, Mrs Smith wrote; “I just want there to be Love.” I think she might have liked this poem, by a Rabbi named Allen Maller, entitled :
When All That’s Left Is Love
When I die
If you need to weep
Cry for someone
Walking the street beside you.
You can love me most by letting
Hands touch hands, and
Souls touch souls.
You can love me most by
Sharing your Simchas (goodness) and
Multiplying your Mitzvot (acts of kindness).
You can love me most by
Letting me live in your eyes
And not on your mind.
And when you say
Kaddish for me
Remember what our
Love doesn’t die
So when all that’s left of me is love
Give me away.
The L-rd gives, the L-rd takes.
Blessed be the name of the L-rd.