Born in Durban, South Africa on 5th April  1964
Died in Tel Aviv, Israel on 2nd August 2008

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the softly falling snow
I am the gentle showers of rain
In a world with no more pain
I am the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight
I am the starshine of the night
I am in the flowers that bloom
I am in a quiet room
I am in the birds that sing
I am in each lovely thing
Do not weep at my grave
I am not there, I did not die.

                                                                                                    - Mary Frye

(This Week's Picture of 2nd August 2008)
(Eulogies at the graveside one year after Rael passed away, August 2, 2009)

To Rael, our beloved son and brother,

How excited we were for you just over two months ago when you were suddenly called in for a double transplant – we had just about given up hope of it ever happening. How thrilled we all were for you at the thought of the new way of life awaiting you once you recovered – a life without diabetes and its awful side effects. And you did seem to be recovering amazingly quickly– you were even allowed to come home after about 10 days. But from then on, one by one, things just seemed to go wrong. Funnily enough the transplants were fine, but it was your general poor state of health that was causing all the problems. Every few days it was something else – they pricked you, they poked you, they operated on you, and there were days that you begged us just to let you go – you said you just couldn't take it anymore. Even when you couldn’t speak, your pleading eyes said it for you. Every time they had to operate the doctors always gave you little hope of pulling through, and each time you amazed them by coming through. Even on the day you died, the head of the department told us that your situation was critical, but he also said that each time you have managed to recover, so perhaps this time would be the same – but it wasn't to be, and your poor battered body just couldn't take it any longer and everything collapsed. You looked so peaceful when they turned the last switch off, as if you were asleep, and so our darling Rael, at least now you are being allowed to rest in peace. We all love you so much. Rest in peace our darling Rael.



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The Bravermans and the Levys at a family celebration

It is impossible to think of Rael as no longer.

Rael the handsome skinny little boy running, excitedly with hands flapping at his side, jumping forwards and backwards in our blow-up swimming pool.

Rael always crazy about fishing. Rael on a camping trip with us to the Kinneret, when a huge storm broke out with waves lashing the shore and rain flooding our bungalows. In the first light of morning we bundled up the sleeping children into the car and wondered where we should go – Rael insistent that we go fishing.

During the last period when he lived in Eilat with Aviv and Limor, Warren would take  him fishing on the Red Sea. It is on that boat that the three of them congregated when they heard the awful news that Rael had passed away.

He always dreamt that he would regain his health sufficiently to return to Eilat, where he was happiest.

Rael with his friend Yoni going on a 3 week grand tour of Europe by car. After 10 days they had been through Europe, seen everything and came back. 

Rael, such a gentle soul, served in Shaked in the army, and was in Lebanon for a long time. Anxious, often afraid, he never shirked from his duty.

Overcoming problems of dyslexia he successfully managed a branch of Burger Ranch and held a high position in Burger King, even working at the head office in Los Angeles. Rael loved to cook and even when he was too sick to hold a steady job he advised others on organizing professional kitchens. I always delighted when he came early to our house and helped prepare his special foods, artistically decorate the dishes that were being prepared. 

And then he took ill. He thought he could successfully breeze through it, like all the other hardships he had overcome. But this one was for real, to stay. As his illness grew progressively more acute, he became more limited in what he could do. But he always had that sad smile on his face, was always happy to be surrounded by family.

But none of this can explain how much we all loved Rael. He was son to Louise and Melly, sister to Denise and Yahel, but he was very much part of our family, part of our experiences and memories. No longer the boisterous little boy of our earliest memories, his quietness, often masking pain and weakness, had a tremendous strength. 

Rael is no longer physically with us, but his presence, our many memories of him and our love for him will continue always.

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Louise's words at the graveside at Rael's shloshim:


We are all gathered here to say goodbye to Rael again. I know he wouldn't have wanted us to be sad, so I would like this to be a time of good memories.

Rael, on the Sunday afternoon that he was born. It was as though he didn't want to be born – perhaps knowing what awaited him. Twice I went into the hospital and twice they sent me home. On the 3rd try, granny, in her best sergeant major voice said: they are not letting her go home till this baby is born – and born he was. Not a good looking baby – looking remarkably like Winston Churchill, and giving no sign of the good looking boy and man he was to grow into.

Rael growing up in Durban. His favorite game with Denise: acting out divers feeding the sharks at the aquarium; loving to go to the beach with his little plastic hammer and bash away at the waves as they rolled in.

Coming on aliya – Getting dressed for the long plane trip, Rael insisting on wearing his suit (why he had a suit I cannot imagine) and long white socks, which he kept pulling up over his trousers up to his knees.

Coming to Israel and meeting his cousins. Rael and Vered running around naked in the locker room at Caeserea, people asking if they were twins. A bond was formed between them that lasted to Rael's dying day.

Rael going fishing with Grandpa in Eilat – was this the beginning of his lifelong love of fishing and Eilat.

Rael's happy days spent at the farm with Yaffa's family. Going to sleep at night with his clothes on top of his pyjamas, so that he wouldn't waste time getting dressed in the morning when he went with Avraham to collect the eggs.

Rael on a sleep out in a friend's back yard – getting the parents to call us in the middle of the night. He was scared – he heard wolves howling. How we laughed – yet only a few years ago I heard that at that time there were in fact hyenas roaming around.

Rael preparing for the army – running around the back yard, diving over boxes – preparation for being accepted into a fighting unit. How handsome he looked on his first day home in his uniform.

After the army, despite his dyslexia, working his way up in Burger Ranch and Burger King, ending up working and living in Los Angeles with his boss. Inviting me for a holiday there – meeting me at the airport in a white stretch limo, booking me in at the Beverly Hills Hotel, taking me to LA's top restaurants, flying me to Las Vegas.

Rael, after the Burger King collapsed, without any formal training and just using his knowledge and skills learned at work, advising people on restaurant and kitchen renovations.

Rael's love of cooking. Loving to barbeque and try out new dishes learned from the cooking channel . Even towards the end when he was so weak, I would come home at lunch time to find him in the kitchen and his first words were – mom, are you hungry, I've just made this or that..

Rael's love of Eilat: I believe that throughout his last months it was the thought of eventually being able to go back and live there that  kept him going. This was his dream – but a dream that was not to be.

Rael, wherever you are now, this is how I want to think of you – in an Eilat heaven, sitting peacefully by the water with your fishing rod, just enjoying the tranquility of your surroundings and all the bad times long gone. We all love and miss you.

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Vered's words at the graveside at Rael's shloshim:

Rael was a part of my life since I remember myself.  Being 2 years younger than Rael, he was just always there.  We usually met on weekends and vacations, and our joint childhood memories are filled with sunshine and happiness.  Growing up, Rael and I were very close and I saw in him the older brother that I think many girls would like to have… Handsome, outgoing, fun and a true charmer, I could talk to him about everything, and we followed each other's lives with long detailed stories.  Rael had a kind heart and I loved being with him.  When I was a teenager, working as a babysitter to earn money and would come to Tel Aviv from Eilat with my girlfriends, he would come visit, always charm my friends, and was also always very generous with money, giving me extra cash to spend on my vacation in the big city.

And then during my military service, Rael and Louis, working together at Burger Ranch, were an inseparable part of my life, hanging out together, going out and mainly just having fun.  Rael had a Doberman dog which I was scared of.  I remember one time on the beach when I became so scared I climbed on top of the kids' playground, and stayed on the top for what seemed like forever, begging a laughing Rael to take his dog.  Or the first time I cooked dinner for Rael and Louis, working on it for days, and I thought it came out great, yet noticed they ate very little; under pressure they admitted they were so sure it would be a disaster that they had dinner at Burger Ranch before coming to me for dinner…

Over the years our relationship continued to evolve into a beautiful and close friendship.  When Rael was in LA, when we were living in the US and France, we remained close.  Rael had wonderful highs, but also lows, in his life, and sometimes he was frustrated with himself, and yet I always adored my flawed yet full of life cousin…  He gave me unconditional love and support, and expected me to just love him as is, in return.  I would like to think that I was always there for him in the good times as well as in his hard times and always there when he needed me.  I feel I had the fortune of living in Raanana these past years where Rael spent most of his time, except the happy period he lived in Eilat, because we got to spend so much time together, and the girls got to know him well and to love him.  I visited him all the time, and he knew I was there for him and he called when he needed me.  Yet this past year was so hard for Rael and I watched helpless as his health deteriorated and he became so incredibly ill this past year, waiting for the transplant which in the end happened too late to save him. Despite being so ill and in pain all the time, he was kind, loving, interested in everything and everyone around him.  He was incredibly brave and he drew much strength from his family that loved him so much!  When I think of Rael, his life, his family, his friends, the adventures he had and the lovers he spent time with, and also about his illness and suffering, I think of Rael as a shooting star.  He lived life to the fullest, just went through everything quicker, burning out quicker than all those who loved him would have wished for.  Maybe it's just like Rael's famous trip of Europe in several days instead of 3 weeks - I think Rael had an intense life in his short 44 years and we should all take comfort that he lived a full life and knew he was loved to the max by all those who surrounded him.

I miss you Rael!

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See also: This Week's Picture of 2nd August 2008

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AUGUST 2, 2009


Rael, today is one year, almost to the hour, since you passed away, and even now I still can't conceive of you as being dead. It's still as if you are just away somewhere, even though I saw you lying there when they turned off your life support system – you just looked so peaceful as if you were fast asleep.  Yet so many things remind me of you – coming home and seeing your empty room, passing the coffee shop where you liked to stop for coffee in the mornings when I took you to the hospital, passing your hairdresser on our corner, seeing the young girl who came to the flat to shave you and give you a haircut the day before you went back to the hospital, never to come home again, always wanting to share with you funny stories that happen, having no one to open all those impossible child-proof bottles.

Whenever one reads obituaries in the paper about young people who died, they always seem to glorify them – how wonderful, clever, successful and well loved by everyone they were. Unfortunately you led a troubled life – even as a young boy you seemed to walk a narrow line and we were never sure if, as an adult, you would overstep that line. You told me at your barmitzvah that you saw yourself with a double handicap– you were both dyslexic and had parents who were divorced. Yet despite everything, you had some inner strength,  later rose to top managerial positions and, without any formal training, found that you had a talent for designing restaurants and kitchens. I believe that until you got sick you enjoyed life, despite all your problems. We cannot deny the pain, hurt and disappointment that you caused lots of us, friends and family, and yet, despite everything, we all couldn't but help love you so much. Despite all your faults, you were a kind and caring person, always ready to go out of your way to help anyone if you could. They say that God takes and God gives. He took you away, but he gave Daddy, Denise and I this wonderful grandchild, Rafael, born to Yahel and Donny. How you have loved this amazing child. It was just comforting for all of us to know that at least you knew about the pregnancy when you were in hospital. However, your death was very difficult for Yahel because she was never able to visit you in the intensive care department because of her pregnancy. We at least had closure – seeing you at the end, but Yahel didn't, and wasn't able to say goodbye.

I know that your last years were not pleasant ones for you – not having control over your own body, having to depend on me for so many things. And yet, you never took anything for granted – if you needed anything extra it was always "mom, do you have the strength to do this….. or that". Your last days in the hospital were very difficult and you went through so much, and so many times you pleaded with us to just let you go. But then, sadly enough, just a few days before you died, you managed to whisper to me that now you wanted to live because of the family. I like to believe that the presence of all the family and friends around you during those last days gave you some sort of extra strength that somehow revived your will to live – but by then it was too late. When Denise and I went back to the hospital to thank the staff, Igor told me that one seldom sees such a wonderful support system as you had. Although they face death constantly, everyone at the department, from the cleaners to the doctors, were so sad when you died. Now all your family and friends are gathered here to be with you. You are always in our minds, Rael, and we all love you very dearly.

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It's been a year since Rael passed away- sometimes it seems like it just happened yesterday, and at other times, it seems like it's been so long, too long.  And missing him is now a constant in our lives.  Mostly I try and pretend he is just away.  We've been apart before, when he was in LA, when I lived overseas.  So in my thoughts, he is still here, present as ever, and a part of my life as he always was. Many little things in my daily life make me think of him, pausing to think of Rael with a smile, trying to learn to put the pain on the side, pushing it into a suitcase that every once in a while bursts and the grief is there.
I miss him in the little things, and personally I have been focusing on thinking about Rael in a positive way, trying to erase the suffering of the last months and the images of his pain.  I've been finding comfort in the fact that he fought like a hero, and that when he gave up, he knew, we knew, that everything possible was done.  That is was time for his suffering to end. I've been focusing instead on a lifetime of friendship, happy moments, joint memories and images with Rael that are dear to me… and that over the years have expanded to include not just me, but my family --  talking to Aviv in the kitchen, watching TV with Danielle while watching her at Louise's, laughing at Lior's passion for anything chocolate. 

I wanted to share a story that would make us smile, I closed my eyes and the first image that came to mind was building the succa with Rael here in Raanana.  It was our little tradition… and how you enjoyed complaining to your sisters for days after about how hard I made you work, while with me insisting that you can do it all on your own…ignoring my requests that we take a break

I've been thinking of the pain Louise feels, and a sentence from a book I recently read came to mind:  (from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society)

So here's wishing to small moments of happiness in all our lives!

On Rael's 15th yahrzeit:

"Time passes quickly, fifteen years of memories that bring a smile to our faces and a sense of pain for the loss.
Rael lived with us for about two years. So symbolic that today Valentine's Day (Tu B'av) the date of his death is marked.
May his memory be blessed."

See a picture of Rael celebrating his birthay at the home of Aviv and Limor.

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