Stories & Memories of Rabbi Yudi Dukes

By: Catherine Constable February 13

Yudi in the hospital

I first heard about Yudi from my friends next door, the Alevskys. I am a physician, and was taking care of patients with Covid last spring (and still am). They were incredulous that this young, vibrant man they knew had fallen so ill. The story was shocking, even in the spring of 2020 in New York. Many months later, as an intern recited a long hospital course to me one morning on rounds, I realized who it was I was hearing about. Knowing how much he had been through, I didn’t know what to expect as I entered his hospital room. But the person I found was brimming with life and light, despite being physically battered and deconditioned. Visiting his room each day came to have special meaning for me. I am Jewish through my mother, but was not raised in Jewish traditions. Yudi would guide me through various prayers and rituals when I entered his room and discuss philosophy of religion with me. We also talked about his experience, and how much the human connection meant to him while in the hospital. Yudi exuded light, but never more so than when he had just had one of his many visitors with him. It was the best nourishment and medicine for him. Yudi’s body was badly damaged from a terrible virus, and I knew that he could not withstand many more infections. I knew how sick he was, yet was still deeply affected by news of his death. He had such heart. I am grateful that he got to experience going home to his family after so many months, even if his homecoming was fleeting. And I was quite moved by the story of his son performing his bar mitzvah at the bedside— what a powerful human connection, even in those last moments. There is much to learn from a person like him, even now.

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