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 ..in 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 young...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 smile...as 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 right...to 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.

4 Comments:

Blogger torontopearl said...

Glen, powerful and impassioned words.
Thank you for sharing them.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Alice said...

This speaks to me very personally. Thank you.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Glen ... your daughter was most assuredly a wonderfully special person. Your writing makes this so abundantly and lovingly clear. Like Nechama's words to Rabbi Stein, your words too serve as "divrei chizuk" for other bereaved parents. I am ...

Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch

8:25 AM  
Blogger Morah Mommy said...

What a remarkable little girl. I was deeply touched reading your words.

1:47 PM  

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