Opinion | A Stroke Left Him Isolated. Love Is His Lifeline.

A rabbi in a long-term care facility reflects on what it
means to be alive in a state of profound isolation.

A rabbi in a long-term care facility
reflects on what it means to be
alive in a state of profound isolation.

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A rabbi in a long-term care facility reflects on what it means to be alive in a state of profound isolation.

By Kitra Cahana

Ms. Cahana is a filmmaker.

My father — a poet, rabbi and quadriplegic survivor of a brainstem stroke — was supposed to come home the evening of March 13, 2020, for Shabbat dinner. Instead, with the advent of the pandemic, he was relegated to his bedroom at his long-term care facility. He remained there — with few exceptions — for the next two years.

As Covid overwhelmed the facility, eventually requiring intervention from the Canadian army, I began interviewing my father remotely. During these conversations, I found myself returning to the same question: What is the meaning of longing? “In this time of isolation,” he told me once, “we’re all perfecting the art of longing.”

Out of my own sense of longing, I began documenting his daily existence by using zoom recordings and video cameras installed in his room. As the virus devastated his facility, it was my way of staying connected to him amid fear and grief. In the short documentary above, my father and I create a space of solace and reflection, where we explore the nature of time, family and separation. What results is a poet’s meditation on longing — longing for connection, longing for love and longing for life itself.

Kitra Cahana is a Peabody Award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker.

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