Author: Neil David Schwartz
Author: Neil David Schwartz
While reading Neil David Schwartz's What if Tomorrow Comes, I was reminded of the Yiddish proverb Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. (Man plans and God laughs) or more succinctly, life's unpredictability.
Schwartz is a successful well-known trial attorney in Los Angeles and was selected by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the “Super Lawyers” of Los Angeles for the years 2008-2013. For thirty two years he was married to his wife Joanne whom he instantly fell in love with when he was a twenty-year-old college junior. The couple had two wonderful children, a son Scott and a daughter Amy. Unfortunately, tragedy came knocking on Schwartz's door when he suffered two tragic losses no person should ever have to endure. The first was the sudden death of his beautiful wife, Joanne, who died most likely of a broken heart. Her death was followed three months later by the passing of his brave twenty-seven year old daughter Amy, who succumbed to a rare brutally aggressive lung cancer that had been discovered several months prior to her mother's death.
Schwartz begins his narrative with informing his readers that “the key to my past is now firmly locked and bolted behind closed doors, inaccessible and beyond the reach of even Houdini the magical locksmith. I am paralyzed by the smothering grip of Galut.” He goes on to point out that although the term Galut generally refers to the forced exile of Jews, especially from the countries they were persecuted, it can also be experienced on a spiritual level. Galut occurs when a person is out of sync with his or her soul and struggles to make sense of a seemingly incomprehensible existence.
After this introduction, Schwartz briefly reminisces about his paternal and maternal grandparents' life histories which he intertwines with some humor. The remainder of this moving memoir consists of a series of short, evocative chapters wherein Schwartz details the horrendous journey he and his wife experienced in caring for their beloved Amy and her struggle to survive.
To say that this is a difficult memoir to read would be an understatement. By its very nature the narrative is deeply personal as Schwartz adroitly captures the devastating pain experienced by Amy. In chapter after chapter we feel her pain as well as the anger, bewilderment and frustration of Schwartz, his spouse and daughter's fear and yes-at times- their hopes. We also wonder, against all odds, how Schwartz was able to navigate his grief after the passing of his beloved Joanne and stepping into the role of primary caregiver to his daughter Amy?
Undoubtedly, this unforgettable, deeply touching and candid narrative will exact a huge emotional toll on most readers who will weep as they read about Amy's struggle with cancer. Moreover, it will force readers to pause for a moment and confront their own mortality while asking themselves what would they do in similar circumstances?
the end, I must commend Schwartz for his accessible writing style and
his courage to chronicle events that I am sure were quite painful to
him to have written this book and which will most likely resonate with those who have faced similar circumstances with the loss of loved ones.