Sunday, July 31, 2005

Letter to Rabbi Stein

The following is a letter which Nechama sent to Rabbi Stein when she was 9. Rabbi Stein was a posek who was very close to our family who was sick with cancer. He passed away over a year ago. When they were both alive, Nechama undertook to write a letter of chizuk to Rabbi Stein on how to be bSimcha and have emunah when you are sick. At the time, we considered this just an innocent expression of concern on her part. Later did we learn that Nechama, even though only 9 years old, considered this to be part of her life's mission. To inspire and give chizuk to others.
The text of this letter was printed in Oleminu and distributed to thousands of children in schools all over the USA. It was also part of shiur at Yeshiva Darchei Torah given by Rabbi Bender to the entire yeshiva.

The following is the exact text of the letter written by Nechama Liba A"H.
note(The hebrew expressions were hand written)

Dear Rabbi Stein,
When a person gets sick they feel angry and fearful, and you have a right to feel that way sometimes. I am lucky that I have friends and family because I feel that people care about me. I feel like I’m here, as a part of this world. I would like to share a few ideas that helped me and might help you feel better about your situation.

1. try not to think about your situation

2. always remember that Hashem will help

3. take a deep breath

4. say "Gam Zu LTova"

5. say "Gam Zu Yaavore"

and Feel better.

Sincerely yours,

Nechama Liba Holman

Thursday, July 28, 2005

More than a Cute Story

Below is a cute story but speaks to the courage that Nechama possessed regardless of the situation.

On one trip to the emergency room after being triaged, the nurse said “I am sorry but we have to draw some blood". Nechama looked up in her frail state and without missing a beat; she said “I forgot my crayons. I'll need crayons to draw some blood. Get it?"

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ateres Nechama Liba Simcha Hall

The idea to name the Simcha Hall for Nechama Liba was the brain child of Rabbi Hiller (dean of Bnos Bais Yaakov where Nechama attended school a.k.a BBY) and 3 women in the community that were close to Nechama and our family. They made a tremdous effort to raise money and still continue to do so to meet their goal. It is a befitting and everlasting memorial to Nechama and a tremendous source of nachas for our entire family.

Ateres- Nechama was described as regal; her tznius was not a negative, smothering device. It was part of who she was.
Nechama- She brought comfort to all who knew her. From her parents to her friends to even strangers
Liba- She embraced life. She accepted her lot in life but only after a good fight. She had a strength that amazed even the most experienced doctors. Her years were short but she lived life to the fullest.
Simcha- Her life was imbued with simcha. Her smile was her signature. Her giggle was described as infectious.
Hall- a place where her name will always be associated to happy occasions

It is interesting to note that Elana and Yaniv were probably the 2 closest people to Nechama besides her immediate family.
They were both engaged on the same day and they both got married on the same day and it certainly wasn't preplanned. It wasn't even done with each other’s knowledge.

Bnos Bais Yaakov is the name of the school where the hall resides. They just opened their new building last fall. Nechama never got to see the new building open. Rabbi Hiller is an amazing person. I have never heard of any other principal who goes to every classroom, practically every day to greet the girls. Nechama will always have a special in Rabbi Hiller 's heart. He always made special efforts for her. He is an exceptional mechanech.

In response to requests that were made:
Checks for both Ateres Nechama Liba and the Ateres Nechama Liba Hachnoses Kallah fund can be made to Ateres Nechema Liba and mailed to 613 Beach 9th Street Far Rockaway ,NY 11691

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Glen's Shloshim Speech

Power of Choice

As the father of the deceased, it is my obligation to speak. Otherwise I would not be worthy of speaking about her, Nechama Liba Alay Hashalom.

As I stand before you, our friends, and family, rabbis and community at large, I am forced to consider the impact of efforts that were expended on behalf of Nechama and our family. I won't attempt to properly convey or express our appreciation,for mere words are insignificant in the face of action. As it says “say a little.... Do a lot.”

(Pirkei Avos Perek 2:mishnah 20) The day is short, the task is abundant, the laborers are lazy, the master of the house is insistent.

It is difficult for us to fully comprehend what has been done for us. There were hundreds…. No it must be thousands of deeds that were done on our behalf. on her behalf. Which action should be singled out? Which person should be mentioned? Is it the person who arranged meals for 2 months? Or the person who brought breakfast everyday while we were in the hospital? Or the one who brought lunch and supper? is it the person who visited us in the hospital? Is it the couple got a babysitter so the father could give torah class in her merit and the wife could go to nightly prayer groups? Is it the doctors or hatzalah volunteers who gave their time day or night for 6 years? Is it those who gave countless hours of support, advice and a free ear and the shoulder to cry on? Is the person who went shopping or is those who made sure that the children were taken care of round the clock? Was it the woman who came to the hospital for a full day while she left her children at home to do projects with Nechama? Is it the ones who learned in her merit? Or her fake big sister\best friend who spent countless hours with her? Or the ones who fasted and created a community fast day? Is it the ones who prayed every day and night? Is it the ones who took upon themselves never to say a negative word about another person or to strengthen themselves in all religious observance? The ones who promised to improve their lives? or the one who started pray in shul 3 times per day with a minyan or is it the one who started keeping shabbos? Is it the people at work whose only concern was for Nechama's health? Or is it her school who made every effort for effort? IT IS all of you and the sacrifices that you made and the sincerity in which you did them.

Children ask questions. In their purity their innocence. They try to understand the complicated and changing world around them. They can be relentless in their pursuit to find answers.... Believing that we, the adults, have the answer for every question. A child of a close friend who had been praying for Nechama , wanted to understand.. "How could it be that she died, after all that had been done in her behalf?" Didn't we do enough? Is there more we could have done? I am sure many children asked this question. How can we answer them? Maybe we can all relate to the question.

It grips us and has a stranglehold that won't let go. As we search inside ourselves.

Perhaps when we take the time for a little introspection. As we beseech the Master of the World, our soul screams for an answer. WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THE PRAYERS & LEARNING? DID WE NOT CRY ENOUGH? DID WE NOT YEARN ENOUGH FOR A COMPLETE RECOVERY? DIDN'T WE CHANGE OURSELVES? IS THERE MORE WE COULD HAVE DONE?
Perhaps........ we have difficulty answering the children... because we do not truly know the answer ourselves.

Should we try to explain WHY an innocent child…. So full of life.... So naive and innocent leaves this world before she has the chance to fully experience the pleasures and milestones of life?

By a righteous, the more you get to know them, the greater you realize that they are. Nechama radiated life. She had that big smile, an infectious smile as someone called it. Her face glowed. You can even see it in the pictures. Someone related a story how they were walking down the street one-day and noticed a young girl walking down the street. The woman said that she felt the little girl's soul. Her face, her smile was imprinted in her mind for the entire day and night...About a year later, she heard that a neighbors daughter had died. On the way to the funeral, someone showed her a picture and

the woman exclaimed" that was the little girl." No one had ever touched me like she did except for the Lubavitcher Rabbi.

Someone called her " the happiest, sickest girl he knew." Another person, someone who works for Chai lifeline, went to visit Chai lifeline's camp: Camp Simcha in the Catskills. The head of the camp said "let me show you the sickest kid in camp." As he looked over and saw Nechama, she was wearing a clown hat while giggling. She was always smiling and making jokes.

Nechama was private about her illness and never wanted outside attention.

If you could imagine the following scenario, all too common place in our home: There would be an emergency at the house, the house would be packed with hatzalaha volunteers, not to mention her parents who were running around the house…calling different doctors on 3 phones while preparing medicine bags, oxygen tanks and clothes for the hospital. Haztalah vehicles, sirens and an ambulance filled the street. Amid the chaos, she sat upstairs, one big smile...the calmest one in the whole bunch. the whole ride in the ambulance, she remained calm with a usual making jokes to make everyone feel like it was no big deal. She was only insistent on 1 thing: that the street be cleared of people when she went into the ambulance. We complied to the best of our ability thinking that we were protecting her. During the shiva, we heard a different side of the following story: Once there was an emergency in school and for the first time ever the nurse could not reach my wife. the nurse was insistent that they call the ambulance. Nechama understood that the situation did not require immediate care and convinced the nurse not to call 911. Soon after my wife was reached and came to pick her up. What we didn't know was that Nechama had also pleaded with the nurse not to call the ambulance since she knew that they wouldn't be able to clear the street of the crowd and nechama didn't want my wife to feel bad.

Nechama was extremely bright and had an incredible memory. She understood all of the practical aspects of her illness. Often she would disagree with a nurse at the hospital citing an unnecessary IV or test. Most often she was right and they acquiesced to her position. She could remember even the most intimate detail of a seemingly inconsequential event. Whenever we couldn't remember something about an experience, we knew we could count on Nechama to remember. She was very bright. Always a smile, a happy face. All those who were close to her were convinced that she did not understand her prognosis or severity of her situation. We thought we had fooled her, protected her,maitined her innocence. We NEVER spoke of death. Never.

It was we, who were fooled. No one who was close to her, not her primary cardiologist nor her closest friends and certainly not her parents ever knew how much she was aware of. She couldn't have known, or so we thought. When Nechama returned from camp last year, she had an inner peace about her. She was the happiest she ever was in her life. The camp director told us that he had spoke to Nechama, private talks, but would not divulge what they had spoken about. He just said" She is smarter than you think and she protects you more than you know." No amount of bribes could convince Nechama to tell us what they had spoken about. All we knew was that she was even happier than she ever was. After Nechama passed away, one of my first thoughts was to find out what they had spoken about. I needed to know. During shiva, the camp director told us: She was keenly aware of her situation. She understood that she would most likely have a short life and exactly how sick she was. And she felt angry about it. He tried multiple techniques but nothing seemed to have much success. Finally, he said, the only thing that "brought her back", as he called it, was when they spoke about the idea that she would be an inspiration to the world. That other kids would see her and learn from her how to deal with being sick and to serve G-d with complete happiness. She would be this beacon of light like a Hasidic Rebbe . And that those she inspired would inspire others and so on. She would start this never ending chain of inspiration and influence.

We never knew that she knew, none of us did. How could she be so happy and know. We were fooled. We thought we were protecting her and really she was protecting us. Can you imagine knowing that you are going to die and still serve G-d with such joy. That any day might be your last so make it count It gave us a new perspective about everything. She rode in the ambulance, all smiles, yet she knew this could be her last trip. She brought her letter of inspiration to Rabbi Stein, understanding that this was part of her mission. She did it all, consciously fulfilling her mission in life. These are her words not mine. I would never be so bold to say such words about a 10 year old. How many of us go around feeling like we are fulfilling some kind of mission?

Her mission in life, everything she did, it wasn’t about getting better. Of course she wanted to get better. Of course she was hopeful but she understood that her mission in life wasn't about serving G-d to get what you want or what we think is best. It was about serving hashem regardless of the outcome. Serving him, consciously, understanding that doing mitzvos is a means in itself. It is the mission. It’s about doing what right and leaving the outcome to hashem (G-d). Maybe that is our answer. Maybe her message, the one she lived everyday, is the answer to that child's question. To all of our questions.

The means is an end in itself. What it means for us is that we can't stop here. We can't be discouraged because things didn't turn out how we expected or wanted. That we cannot predict nor orchestrate the outcome, but we can do our part. And do it with complete happiness. We have to move on but we can never forget. What happened here in Far Rockaway is unprecedented. There are people who need us just like we needed you. We have to continue …. to continue to do chesed and the tehillim groups and the learning and the charity and make torah classes. We need to imprint her smile and her glowing face in our minds day and night. We have to use it to guide us that no matter what we will do what is serve hashem with complete happiness. The greatest tribute to her memory is to internalize her message.

(Pirkei Avos Perek 2:mishnah 20) The day is short, the task is abundent, the laborers are lazy, the master of the house is insistent.

Indeed her days were short, she accomplished much. She surpassed human nature and she understood that we are only required to do as much as our abilities allow. May G-d give us the insight and the strength to follow in her ways.
We appreciate all the charity that people have given and continue to give in memory of Nechama Liba. What could be more appropriate than a Simcha Hall (catering hall) that will always be filled with happiness be named in her memory.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Special thanks to friends at
Audio files are available:

Hespedim for Nechama Liba Holman A"H August 2004:
Glen Holman Hesped (Father of nifteres & blog author)
Rabbi Hiller Hesped (Dean Of BBY)
Rabbi Naftoli Jaeger Hesped (Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv)

Shloshim for Nechama Liba Holman A"H August 2004:
By Glen Holman
By Rabbi Naftoli Jaeger
By Dr. Zev Carrey

Monday, July 18, 2005

Part 8 That Day

My brother in-law had spent the last 5 weeks in the hospital with us. Considering that things looked stable and the fact that he hadn't left the hospital for over a month, he chose to spend the weekend back in Miami. Things were looking good the night before. When I awoke, we noticed that the situation has declined since the previous night. I slept in the room overnight but the nurses seemed in control. However Saguite was extremely concerned and her internal instinct told her that something was very wrong. I had experienced so many ups and downs that I was somewhat less panicked. Over the next hour, things started to get worse and a crisis began..again. Fortunately, Nechama's doctor was close by and came up quickly. Doctors from the ICU started to pour into Nechama's room. I stood right outside the room. Saguite went into the visitor lounge to say tehillim. I called a close friend who started a tehillim chain call. There were close to 20 people in Nechama's room. It was not a pretty site and things were getting worse. The nurses were literally running in the hall, tripping over themselves and bumping into one another. This is just one display of their dedication to Nechama. In all my weeks there, I had never seen anything like this. There was a panic on the floor. And I had witnessed things and experienced things which no one should ever see. I called Dr. Zev, a close friend, who was in Israel. I told him that I did not need any medical any medical advice this time. I just needed him to daven. He said that he was in Sfat and just came back from Amuka where he and his family were davening for Nechama. As I stood there, Dr. K walked into the hall and shook her head back and forth. I said "Zev, she's dead."And part of me died with her that day.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Part 7 Beginning of the end

Towards the end of Shabbos, I got a phone call from Nechama's Cardiologist.
She asked me how Nechama was doing. I explained to her that things were going well and that according to the 2-day rule, since there was no reoccurrence that we were pleased.
In addition, we were having a great time. Then I asked her " I know this may sound like a stupid question being that we are in ICU and Nechama still needs anti-biotics, but is there any way of her going back to camp?" I had to ask. She replied in the negative. Dr. "K" did everything in order for Nechama to go to camp but this time, the limit had been reached. Too many complications in too short a period of time even though things were going well.
As Shabbos was drawing to a close, Ilana and I took turns reading a funny book to Nechama out loud. As we reached 2/3rds into the book, Nechama and Elana broke into uncontrollable laughter.
Unfortunately, that started a chain of uncontrollable coughing.
Let it suffice to say that she ended up on a respirator and miraculously survived the night.

You can see my previous post which describes the next 5 weeks describing the tremendous outpouring of support and the tragic ending of Nechama's passing at:

If there is interest, I can expound in general terms on the events that occurred over the next 5 weeks but my intention is not to go into the more "graphic details".

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Picture of Nechama

pciture Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 11, 2005

Part 6 At the hospital

We spent the next few days at the hospital in the ICU. Things were relatively smooth. Elana came to spend time with Nechama. The theory was that as long as the episode did not reoccur within 2 days, then it would probably not reoccur. Ilana spent Shabbos with Nechama and I. Saguite stayed home with the other kids. It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable Shabbasim that I can remember. We played games, laughed a lot. Nechama, for the first time in her life, decided to wear the hospital pajamas. But she would not go into the hall with them preferring to wear her Shabbos robe because it was more tznius. She didn't feel that she could walk in the hallway so, for the first time, I wheeled her around in a wheelchair. We played several games to pass the time. We told stories and jokes as we always did.
It was like the "Calm before the Storm" literally.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Part 5 Arrival at the hospital

As soon as I got home, I packed quickly and sped off to the hospital. I was horrified at the idea of Nechama getting to the hospital before me. I have never driven so fast and with such disregard for basic traffic laws. Columbia Presbyterian is about 45 minutes from my house. Unfortunately, the Van Wyck was in the middle of their ingenious multi-billion dollar plan to build an air train and all cars were being diverted to the service road. I was driving like mad and fell into a panic. Driving this way was not easy considering that I was panting heavily and was totally numb in my hands and feet. I called a friend to try to distract me. I arrived with plenty of time to spare and my fears of being late were unfounded. She arrived almost an hour later. As we entered the emergency room, the doctor from the evening before, saw us. She did not want us to wait in the ER for no reason and sent us directly to the ICU. I was happy that I was with Nechama and afraid at the same time. But I had no idea that we would stay there until she died. The camp nurse Miriam G., who became a close family friend, arrived with Elana. They had brought all of her suitcases from camp and her special blanket. Actually, throughout the hospital it was referred to as a “shmata” (rag) considering there wasn't much left of it. I sort of came to believe that as long as the blanket survived so would she.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Part 4 Camp Simcha Special 2004

The next morning, I drove to work from the mountains. After work, against my better judgment, I drove home instead of following my usual custom of going to sleep near camp. About 2/3rds of the way home, I got a call from Nechama's counselor, saying that she had fever and refused to go to the infirmary. I guess Nechama inherited, a suspicious eye for doctors from her parents. Nechama's medical position :) was that she should first take Tylenol and see if the fever goes down. If it does not, only then would she agree to go to the infirmary. I told her that while I concur with her medical assessment and decision, being that she was in camp, she needed to be subservient to the decisions o the camp doctor. The medical staff headed by Dr Dolitsky, honestly did everything that they could to keep her in camp but things became more and more complicated and it became obvious that she required hospitalization. When Dr Dolitsky told her that she needed to leave camp, she asked, "Did my parents agree?" When he gave a positive response, she smiled and said "ok" and gave one of her famous warm smiles. Anyone who knew Nechama understood that camp meant the world to her. Her entire camp experience, the one she counted the days towards for a year, barely lasted 24 hours. We also understood, only later on, that she knew how serious the situation was. She understood that her disease was terminal and that things were getting bad. Yet she still easily accepted her situation. Dr. Dolitsky told me the follow up during shiva, 6 weeks later. He had an appointment that next morning in the city and being that it was already late being that it took awhile to get Nechama all set to leave, he decided to go straight to the city and maybe even sleep in the car. While driving to the city, another car SLAMMED into dr. Dolistky's car and totaled it. He climbed out of the car with barely a scratch. When the Camp Rav heard about this, He said that Dr. Dolitsky was saved in the merit of sending off that little Tzedekas referring to Nechama Liba A"H.

My Goal is to post at least 2x per week on Sunday and Wednesday.