Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Louis and Sara Berkal

Watercolour by Sara Berkal

Watercolour by Sara Berkal

Watercolour by Sara Berkal

Harriet Berkal: The Miracle of Bringing Light to Life--Hanukkah and Caring for Elderly Parents

by Harriet Berkal, Dec 8, 2022

In our lifetime, we are all faced with a variety of “missions”, at one point or another. And often we have to make difficult decisions. There may be mountains to climb in front of us, yet we persevere and with faith, we give it our all, hoping for good outcomes.

And so it was with the Macabees. After the destruction of the second temple, they were challenged with finding only enough oil,  to light the menorah which should have lasted a mere day. Miraculously, that oil lasted 8 days, as the menorah burned in all its glory.

I want to tell you about my mission of caring for  elderly parents and how it relates to Hanukkah.

My parents wished to stay in their house as long as possible. In an attempt to respect their wishes, efforts were made to accommodate them, to ward off their inevitable decline.

It took a tremendous effort to support that goal to keep them in the only home,  since arriving in Winnipeg in 1954.

Modifications to the house had to be completed such as: hallway rails, an outdoor ramp, a hydraulic lift for the bathtub, an electric hospital bed, etc. 24 hour help was required. A daunting task - no ?

My mother had multiple miny strokes ( TIA’s ). My father had late stage Alzheimer’s and yet he knew exactly where his shoe horn was in the back hall, before taking him for a walk.

But the basics of living there was made even more miraculous when they were “engaged” as living beings who could still enjoy life. Stimulating them with an infusion of activity made their golden years better, filled with improved quality.

So violin lessons were introduced once a week and were at first glance futile, as my father could never remember the previous lesson. But it brought him tremendous joy. My mom would grab a stick and conduct as the teacher guided my dad with tremendous patience. ( That same  violin teacher attended Louis Berkal’s unveiling and played at it. They had a bond between them.)

Watercolour painting classes started for my mom at the dining room table weekly. She was very reluctant to have these sessions at first, but grew to love them along with her wonderful teacher. Not an animal lover, my mom eventually permitted the art teacher to bring her dog into the home. That was unforeseeable. In fact, it was miraculous that any four footed creature entered that house on Brock Street.

The paintings my mom completed, many were converted into t shirts she wore with great pride.

Shayla Fink, a name known to all in the Winnipeg Jewish community, came by to hold a sing along, which lifted their spirits on a cold winter night. Shayla understood the benefits of music filling the home and hearing their participation.

It was a “ sign “ to witness two aging souls, thriving in their home, restored with life !

Many of us give up during difficult times. The story of Hanukkah, helps us, as it reminds us there is HOPE.

“The marriage that is floundering requires rededication. The student who is failing must rededicate herself. The addict starting each new day of sobriety must rededicate himself. Even the most creative individual must get past the initial excitement of a new project to the daily innovation required to realize that dream. No single vision will suffice; we must see again and again and again.
Hanukkah is a winter holiday. It shines light in the darkest time of year.”

View past that dark tunnel we have all experienced during this never ending pandemic. There is a light at the end of it.  

Remember those brave Maccabees who didn’t give up hope.

The aspiration to move forward gives all of us a tomorrow.

So light that Menorah and allow its glow to lift your spirits. In your darkest moment remember that we all need to be renewed from time to time.

Happy Hanukkah to all !  


Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • JNF Manitoba / Saskatchewan
  • JNF Manitoba / Saskatchewan
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • James Teitsma
  • Janice Morley-Lecomte
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Coughlin Insurance
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Peerless Garments
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Cavalier Candies
  • HUB International
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.