When she liked people, she showed it. She liked Yasser Arafat, and he liked her. We went to see him many times in Tunis and later in Palestine, and he treated her with utmost courtesy, allowing her to take pictures of him at any time, showering her with presents. Once he gave her a necklace and insisted on putting it on her himself. With his poor eyesight, he fumbled for a long time. It was a wonderful sight, but his official photographer did not react. Rachel was furious.
When we served as a human shield for the besieged Palestinian President, Arafat kissed her on the brow and led her by the hand to the entrance.
FEW PEOPLE knew that she carried an incurable disease -- Hepatitis C. It lay like a sleeping leopard at her doorstep. She knew that it could wake up any minute and devour her.
The unexplained infection was discovered more than 20 years ago. Every doctor's appointment could have meant a death sentence. She collapsed five months ago. There were many signs of this approaching, which I ignored but she clearly saw.
During these five months, I spent every minute with her. Every new day was like a precious gift for me, though she was inexorably sinking. We both knew, but pretended that everything was going to be alright.
She had no pains, but increasing difficulty eating, remembering, and, towards the end, speaking. It was heart-rending to see her struggling for words. For two days she was in a coma, and then she slipped away unconsciously and painlessly.
She had insisted that nothing be done to prolong her life artificially. It was a terrible moment when I asked the doctors to stop their efforts and let her die.
In accordance with her wishes, her body was cremated, against Jewish tradition. Her ashes were scattered on the Tel Aviv seashore, opposite the window where she had spent so much time gazing out. So the words of William Wordsworth, which she loved and often repeated, do not strictly apply:
"But she is in her grave, and oh, The difference to me."
ONCE, in a moment of weakness exploited by a film-maker, she complained that I had never said "I love you." True enough: I find these three words incurably banal, devalued by Hollywood kitsch. They certainly are not adequate for my feelings towards her -- she had become a part of me.
When she was fading, I whispered "I love you." I don't know if she heard.
After she died, I sat for an hour with my eyes fixed on her face. She was beautiful.
A GERMAN friend sent me a saying which I find strangely comforting. It translates as:
"Don't be sad that she left you, Be glad that she was with you for so many years."
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