By YY’s Loving Siblings – London, England
It is hard to believe that we are writing about our darling special brother, Yechiel Yosef a”h or YY, as he was so fondly known. He is still so vibrant and alive in my mind, smiling broadly with a twinkle in his eyes.
I am putting pen to paper in the hope that people will be inspired by what YY managed to achieve in his short lifetime and learn from it.
YY was born Shavuous 1999, just as women everywhere were lighting candles to accept the Torah and reciting the special tefilla of V’zakeini.
As soon as we found out that he has Down syndrome, we just knew we would do everything in our power to be there for him, help him on his journey and treat him just like any other one of our siblings. YY made this a lot easier for us as he was always so b’simcha and full of life, and his cheeky smile just lit up the world and everyone around him. From a young age, while sitting outside each morning waiting for his school bus to come, anyone passing by would get a massive greeting; some were even lucky enough to get a hug, and it was hard to continue on your way without giving a smile in return. Some of the neighbourhood would even comment how this changed their day and they looked forward to it each morning. Wherever he went he would leave his mark.
YY was part of a big family k’h, and he loved each sibling unconditionally and we all looked out for him constantly. His family meant everything to him and we put in every effort to ensure he reached all his milestones on time and made sure he was the most loved and cared-for child ever. When summertime rolled round the counselors would fight between themselves to be able to have YY over the summer; they adored him and marvelled at how clever and lechtig he was. He always looked out for the weaker ones and would help out anyone who couldn’t manage as well as himself. At the shiva, a teacher recalled how there was a blind child who was unable to open his yoghurt himself and the teacher would help him. It was one day that the teacher said to the child, “you need to learn how to open it yourself”. As soon as the teacher turned his back, YY went over to the child and opened it for him as he couldn’t bare to see another child suffering. (And rest assured, he also made sure to tell the teacher off for his ‘cruelty’.)
Another story told by the shiva was about a young man who did not know YY at all. As he was leaving his office one day in a terrible state, after a stressful day at work he happened to bump into YY who engulfed him in one of his signature bear hugs and told him everything would be ok. This had a big impact on the gentleman and he recalls how it literally changed the rest of his day.
To YY it was no difference who you were or where you came from; anyone who needed was showered with love.
In addition to his simchas hachaim YY loved music. He would sing all hours of the day and would correct anyone else trying to sing along with him. He loved the mike and would try to stay updated with the latest music out there. He especially loved Yaakov Shwekey’s ‘Racheim’ and would sing it with such purity and meaning. It was even a part of our weekly Shabbos zemiros. Of course, his favourite day of the week was Shabbos, when all the family would sit together and sing. He loved all the Shabbos food and would be over the moon when a married sibling would move in for Shabbos or Yom Tov, even helping them unload and unpack or preparing their room.
When YY turned 18, he moved into assisted living. He spoke about it weeks before and packed his bags happily. Oh, the excitement! Having watched all his siblings marry and moving into their own place, he was convinced his wife was waiting for him on the other side of the door. When he realised this was not the case, he still made the best of his situation and kept himself happy. He enjoyed being his own boss and would contact us daily and be up to date with all the family news, simchas and parties, without missing a beat. Once again, Shabbos was the highlight of his week where he would get to eat out by family and spend time with his beloved siblings, nieces and nephews. They in turn loved and adored him and he would play and farbreng with them for hours.
When lockdown started for the Covid-19 illness, YY was kept indoors in his flat, however he had already contracted the virus and unfortunately was taken into hospital on Motzei Shabbos Parshas Vayikra. He wasn’t doing well and needed to be intubated. It was really difficult for us to live with the knowledge that he was taken into hospital alone. YY was niftar on Thursday, Ches Nisan. Knowing how much we all meant to him and not being able to be there for him during his last moments here on this world when his neshamah departed and left us bereft, is something we must accept with love from Hashem just as his birth was accepted with love and joy.
YY never took no for an answer. He is most definitely beseeching the Ribono Shel Olam to end Klal Yisroel’s suffering with the complete Geula Shleima.
We miss him dearly but his legacy will live on, ‘tackle life with a smile because it’s all good.’
In loving memory…