It’s a strange feeling to meet someone for the first time and know that they’re going to die. That’s what happened with Michael Golomb.

A few months ago, a listener wrote to tell us about his uncle, Michael, and urged us to interview him before cancer got the best of him. “He’s a really special guy,” he said, “and you’ll want to hear his story.” Needless to say, we were nervous when we called up with a chutzpadik request: that he devote a few of his last moments to us, so that we could tell his story.

What do we ask, we wondered, and how do we ask it? But our anxiety dissipated almost immediately once we spoke with Michael. On that first phone call, he insisted we call him ‘brother,’ and as soon as we walked into the house he shared with Leah, his wife of 37 years, we were swept away by their warmth. For hours we sat together in their living room—in the Carlebach moshav of Mevo Modi’im—as they dusted off old stories and considered the future. They knew the end was near, but were still hopeful.

The next day, Michael called us. He was concerned he’d talked too much, and asked if we could come back and record Leah some more. But by the time we returned, Michael was already in the hospital. We visited him there about a week before he died. Despite his pain, he smiled as we recorded some final parts of his story.

Brother Michael passed away Wednesday, exactly a week after we aired his love story on our Valentine’s Day show. It was Rosh Hodesh Adar, the beginning of the month of Adar, during which we celebrate Purim. Hundreds of friends gathered to bid him farewell and sang quietly in the dark. “When Adar comes in,” they cried huddled around the grave protected by umbrellas, “we must rejoice.”

You may have left this world smiling, brother Michael, but Wednesday night, many tears were mixed into the rain and the mud.

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