Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The kever

Thankfully, the "Chevra" fixed the bottom of the Kever. The bottom of the kever was "naked" cement without any stone in contrast to the rest of the kever. For some untold reason, not having the kever as "finished" left me with an empty void. Having it fixed allowed me to feel as if I was doing something to be mechabayd Nechama. As a father, one of the most difficult aspects of being a bereaved parent is not being able to do anything for your deceased child anymore. By taking care of this, it left me with a satisfied feeling. To be fair, my wife was the one who got it done finally but my nagging counts as well. It is strange but I felt some peace. Until the kever was completed, I could not feel that peace. I am tempted to use the word closure but it would be a cliche. Closure is reserved for grandparents or even parents but does nothing in terms of representing what it feels like when your child dies. Maybe, "come to terms with" might be more realistic but closure has no place.

We visited the kever many times over the past few weeks. By the kever, all I could do was say tehillim, light a candle and clear off the dust that had accumulated on top. I cleared out the burnt out candles and added fresh ones. It gave me some sense of doing. I prayed that Nechama should daven for certain people and especially for all of those people who had helped us so much who need shidduchim. I wish I had something inspiring to say. I consider someone who lost a child to that of someone who is injured in a terrible car crash. We need to learn to walk again, to speak. You need to go back to the basics. You need to relearn everything that you once learned only now you have an entirely new perspective.

A friend in Israel lived several flights up with no elevator. While a few of us were climbing the stairs, each person voiced a different opinion on what was the best way to approach climbing the stairs. One person said to skip every other step. Another said to run as fast as you can without looking. The youngest person, but perhaps the wisest, said to always look down at how many stairs you have climbed instead of looking up at how many stairs you have left.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A glimpse of the real Nechama

Just got back. I missed all of you.

Someone wrote to me that I should write about Nechama. After I pointed out a specific post which describes Nechama, He said "i have read every painful and beautiful post you wrote now,what i meant was something about HER not her pain or illness HER."

Let me help you get to know the real Nechama. She was almost always happy even as a young baby. She had a beautiful voice. She loved to sing. Her memory was incredible. She didn't forget anything. She was well liked in her class. She made an effort to be friends with people who did not have any other friends. She loved to laugh . She loved to do projects especially arts and crafts. She was extremly creative. She could take a shoe box and some paper towel holders and create an IV pole. She could keep herself busy for ours. She loved to play hospital. Her hair was very long and she never wanted to cut it. She always wore tznius clothing even when she was 3 years old. She davened the longest Shmonei Esreih in her class. She had an 'infectious giggle". She was very mature and had an adult sense of humour. It was like talking to a friend. She was fragile and afraid of the many procedures,tests that she was forced to endure. She was brave and she protected us more than we ever knew. We used to hold hands in the car when I drove her places.
I will write more about our Israel trip these past 2 weeks \Yartzheit over the next week. I will try to post more stories and writing from other people about Nechama.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

zeraim siyum speech

The 18th of Av was the Yartzheit. I am in Israel so the blogging
is difficult at best. Here is a draft of the speech which I gave at the Yartzheit Seuda here is Israel. I will post more about the Yartzheit and my Israel soon.
I made a siyum on Zeraim and friends learnt the other 5 sedarim.

Zeraim is interesting. Seemingly it has little practical application. Not only do I live in chutz laharetz but I am certainly not a farmer. I don't even like to garden and I have allergies. All this talk about produce, grain, wheat and threshing has little impact on my day to day life.In addition, there is 1 sticking point which, at the risk of being labeled cynical, I feel compelled to publicize. If there was an occupation which would conjure up the image of a hard working, back breaking, self depreciating job, I think a farmer would be it. It requires tremendous manual effort and the reward is uncertain at best.
There are a million steps and stages and it requires incredible patience. In addition, it is possible or even probable that outside influences can destroy part or all of your hard work. Too much sun, too little sun. Too much rain, too little rain. Drought, disease, insects, weather, flooding have a direct affect on the harvest. You can imagine the daily worrying on the part of the farmer. He never knows if his work from the last several months might be destroyed in as many minutes.
Now, imagine the delight,... the sheer joy, during harvesting season. After many months of toil and effort, he begins to see the fruits of his labor. Literally. Now imagine, he gets a letter in the mail, from the local government. It says that new rules are in effect and 10% goes to federal, 5% to the local county, 15% goes to the state. Another 2% has to be left for the poor as does anything that he neglected to pick up on his first time around. The good news is that 2% can be schlepped to Washington D.C for him to eat of his own food. It kinda sounds like my paycheck. Now, most people equate sailors with nivel peh but that was before our farmer got this letter in the mail. Now forgive me for appearing cynical, but we can imagine after all of his hard work, he has to take his weather surviving produce and divvy it up. This hardly seems fair considering all of this.
Yet, if we look at all of this from another perspective, perhaps we can make some sense of it. In a material world such as this one, we are commanded to do our hishtadlus. We need to put forth our sincerest effort. God gives us the tools to do so. We till the land, Day and night. Night and day. We work the soil with our bare hands and toil with our very souls. Till we have no strength left. We nurture and protect. We raise the produce from the ground up. Feverishly working and worrying until we start to see a bit of growth. We cultivate and pour our heart and souls until we see progress and on and on until harvesting time. The success is in Hashem's hands. We are a pawn in his hands. And soemtimes, a drought or flood destroys everything that we have worked towards. All the growth, the effort, the progress is all destroyed in one big swoop. All to teach us an important lesson, that we can't take for granted what Hashem gives us. it was never ours to begin with. We were charged with making the effort but success is in the hands of hashem. And for those crops that survive, we need to appreciate them and the chesed that comes along with it. And when hashem commands us to give a portion to the Kohen and a portion to the Levi and the ani, it is is his produce which we are divying up, not ours. All that we do take, is simply a chesed from above. So too with children. Nechama Liba was a gift from hashem for us to put in our full efforts but she was never ours to keep.
With the summer afoot and the Yartzheit rapidly approaching, our thoughts turn towards the events of last summer. There are strong feelings which well up inside. Among them are the feelings of pain, loss and shock. So much time has passed, yet the yearning, the sense of loss, does not diminish. Love for a child is never lost. The desire to see your child does not lessen. From where do we draw the strength? Upon what wellspring of energy can we draw? Where will we find the courage to move on?
We need look no further than the nifteres. Nechama Liba A"H lived each day knowing it might be her last. Her childlike innocence was a facade. It was nothing more than a protective shield around those she loved. She understood her predicament all too well. Her החיים שמחת wasn’t from ignorance rather it was a calculated and intentional effort to serve Hashem בשמחה regardless of the challenges that were thrown her way. No matter what the circumstances, Nechama always maintained her smile with her love of life. Just as she looked fear in the eye, we must do the same with our grief. She was determined to make the best out of each day regardless of her situation. She didn’t let it get in the way of what she needed to accomplish.
Learning Mishnayos for someone who has passed is the greatest zechus for their neshama. It has not equal not in kaddish nor in prayer. On behalf of my wife, and family, I thank you for this tremdous effort and I can't tell you how much it means to us. May it be a zechus for your entire families and for clal yisroel. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Levaya Speech - Glen Holman

Yartzheit is next Tuesday.
This is the loose draft of the hesped that I gave at the levaya at JFK:

Nechama was born 11 years ago next week. She was special from birth.
Somehow she inspired people. She had a special charm that was like a magnet.
She lived with this disease for 6 years and never complained.
She always had a smile on her face. Every nurse or doctor who she ever met remembered her even years later.
In general because of the severity of her condition, nurses would shy away
from other kids with her illness. Yesterday, 2 nurses wanted to take care of her so badly, that the one who lost actually went home. Over the past 4 weeks, we saw open miracles. Undisputable even by the most senior doctors. No child, I believe no person, had ever survived through what she had. Never. But Nechama was a special person; she loved life and wasn't going to give it up without a fight.
From the age of 2, she never wore pants.She had an amazing memory even remembering little details. She was very mothering always taking care of the kids. She inspired people through her love of life. Through the years, she suffered with dozens of hospital visits and their associated treatment, hundreds of false alarms and issues. She never complained. She gave chizuk to everyone around her. The Hatzalah men were so nispoel by her.
Everyone knows that she looked forward to Camp Simcha Special for the year.
She counted the days and this year, her big sister from Chai Lifeline was her counselor. Because she was sick, she missed the first 2 days and was driven by ambulance after only 24 hours at camp.Even when I told her that she would not be going to camp, she didn't complain.
When Rabbi Stein was sick, she wrote him a letter of chizuk on how to deal with
living with an illness. The hundreds of people who davened for her was a testimony to how many people she touched. Her smile, her warmth, her simchas hachaim, her love of life. She inspired others to appreciate life. Nechama loved to play teacher almost every day. She loved to give over and share. Inspired by her school.

When my wife or I were on errands, Nechama would call because she needed us to
get her something. But first she would ask where we were. If what she needed was in a different store, she wouldn't even tell us what it was so we wouldn't have to make an extra stop.

When she was first diagnosed, as I read through the siddur and could not understand
the chesed that is such a central theme. Over the last 6 years and even more so over
the last several weeks, we saw the chesed from both above and from below.
There wasn't a practical need that wasn't filled whether it be physical, emotional and spiritual.

There wasn't a thing that we didn't try from the bizarre to the mundane.
Really, it is only because of the davening, chesed and emunah that carried us through. You can access the audio via this link:
Glen Holman's Hesped for nechama Liba Holman A'H
The other hespedim can be accessed via the links section to the right.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tisha B'Av 05

Tisha B'Av has a tremendous power. It has the ability to leap us forward toward teshuva or “spiral us” into depression with never ending questions of “When the suffering will end?” Last Tisha B'Av, my Rebbi spent the day with me in the hospital. We learned Eyov together. It was becoming increasing apparent that our only glimmer of hope was to take Nechama to Pittsburgh for a transplant. While, the medical center in Pittsburgh was in the midst of evaluating whether Nechama was too sick for a transplant, I found the idea of being uprooted from my familiar surroundings to an unknown place far away to be of a torturous nature. I can't imagine how the Jews in Gaza feel. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to see the other kids who visited us from time to time. Even more so, we were familiar with the medical care in Columbia and more importantly they were familiar with us. A gentle suggestion from my wife or myself was often enough to set things in motion. Thankfully, the staff was open-minded. In addition, we had visitors and food was brought every day. (Side-bar: As a matter of fact ,on Tisha B'Av last year, a woman from our community made the trip to Manhattan, dropped off fresh baked pastries to break the fast and then left.) In any case, I couldn't bear the thought of going to Pittsburgh. I couldn't even stand the name. "PITTSBURGH FOR HEAVEN SAKE" was all that I could muster. (No offense to anyone who lives in Pittsburgh. I am talking about the hospital not the city) Hashem is infinite; he can certainly cure Nechama in New York. In the midst of entertaining that thought downstairs, I got an urgent call to come upstairs; there was another problem. It was a tense situation and I promised to G-d that I would go to Pittsburgh and accept G-d’s choice for me without complaint. Thankfully, Nechama recovered. I realized at that moment that all of my complaining and bantering was ceased in a moment. I also recognized that maybe Pittsburgh was our best choice. Within the hour, I got the final answer from Pittsburgh, they said “No”. We were rejected.
That's Tisha B'Av.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Speech at Siyum

This is the speech that was given at a siyum which my 10yr son and I made in memory of Nechama.

Over the last year, I’ve had multiple opportunities to speak about Nechama in a variety of forums. However, in many ways and on many levels, this is perhaps the most difficult. Today's gathering consists of a small, intimate group of some of our closest friends and family. My words today are intended for the youngest of the group. Namely Mordechai….., Miriam……, Chaim and baby Shimon.

Today 's occasion is marked by 2 events for our family. One makes us feel happy and one may make us feel sad. It is a day of remembrance for Nechama Liba who we miss so much. And it is also a Siyum for which Mordechai and I finished Mishnayos Pesachim, which gives great joy and nachas to Mommy and I. The 2 events are connected since Mordechai and I have dedicated our learning together as a zechus for Nechama Liba.

. The last several years have had their share of difficult moments but we need to remember the good times that we had.

As the head of the household, perhaps all questions are directed at me and somehow I am supposed to provide sufficient answers. My response is that everything depends on the questions that are asked. We were not put on this world to ask questions of why and how could, only of what…… We need to ask ourselves what can we learn from Nechama………

Mordechai, Miriam and Chaim, There are many things that we can learn from Nechama. We can learn from Nechama how to always be happy and do mitzvos with a smile. We can learn from her, to serve Hashem bSimcha even in the face of very difficult challenges. We can learn to be teachers. We can learn that even a young child can make a tremendous impact on the world. We can learn that we should make friends with kids who don’t have many friends. We can learn to be brave. We can learn to make the best of a difficult situation. We can learn to be an inspiration to other people even if we are young.

In many ways you have already done these things. But we need to continue to do them and internalize them and make them a permanent part of who we are. By learning all of this things and by doing them, we will forever be connected to Nechama Liba. Our family as well as the people in this room will never forget Nechama. And I am sure many others will remember her as well.

Mordechai, by learning mishnayos for Nechama, you have done the greatest thing that you could for her. Mordechai, your learning of Mishnayos gives tremendous nachas and happiness to Mommy and I and to everyone here. Your Rabbeim, family and friends are so proud of you and the person that you have become.

Your determination to finish Pesachim, even at 6 in the morning is an inspiration and an example for everyone to follow. I look forward to finish many more maschtos with you starting with Shekalim.

Mordechai, Miriam and Chaim, as you grow older, you will understand Nechama in new ways. You will recognize on a deeper levels, what an incredible person she was. And she will never be forgotten. The best thing that we can for Nechama is continuing to do Mitzos and learn Torah for her and for ourselves. I am sure that Nechama is in Shemayim next to the Keysay HaKoved with Hashem and that she continues to daven for our entire family.

Thanks to our closest friends and family for always being there for us and supporting us when we needed you most.

Like we learnt in the Mishna that explains, how that at the Seder, we sing the praises of Hashem and speak of his glory and his greatness. And we thank him for bringing us out of golus , from being slaves to being free , from sorrow to happiness. May HaKodesh Baruch Hu bring Moshiach soon and rebuild the Bais HaMikdash quickly and we will all be together again in Eretz Yisroel.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Second Letter to the Community

Tomorrow, August 8th, is Nechama's english birthday. I am trying to convince myself that it is not significant, but no success yet. Instead of bat Mitzah preparations we are working on the Yarzheit seudah.
The following is a letter that was recently sent out to the Far Rockaway community along with an audio cd of the sloshim from last year:

With the summer afoot and the Yartzheit rapidly approaching, our thoughts turn towards the events of last summer. There are strong feelings which well up inside. Among them are the feelings of pain, loss and shock. So much time has passed, yet the yearning, the sense of loss, does not diminish. Love for a child is never lost. The desire to see your child does not lessen. From where do we draw the strength? Upon what wellspring of energy can we draw? Where will we find the courage to move on?

We need look no further than the ניפטרת. ליבא ע''ה נחמה lived each day knowing it might be her last. Her childlike innocence was a facade. It was nothing more than a protective shield around those she loved. She understood her predicament all too well. Her החיים שמחת wasn’t from ignorance rather it was a calculated and intentional effort to serve Hashem בשמחה regardless of the challenges that were thrown her way. No matter what the circumstances, Nechama always maintained her smile with her love of life. Just as she looked fear in the eye, we must do the same with our grief. She was determined to make the best out of each day regardless of her situation. She didn’t let it get in the way of what she needed to accomplish.

Imagine a stranger who chances upon the קברof the ניפטרת . As he comes closer he notices the many dozens of rocks that adorn the grave. At first, he considers that this is the קבר of a great Rebbe. As he walks closer, he sees the name. Perhaps, he thinks, she was a grandmother, who left a large family, and the rocks were left by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But as he moves closer, he sees the dates of birth and death. There is a short span between them. She lived too few years to have amassed a family. But those who knew the ניפטרת , those of us who experienced a summer like last year, know that the קבר is that of a child. There are 2 sides to this story. On one side is a child who was a teacher, a teacher of values and ideals well beyond her years. Ideals such as שמחה in the face of adversity, always being kind to another person, love of Hashem and intense תפילה. She not only taught those ideals but she lived them. Her life’s goals, by her own proclamation, were to spread those ideals and inspire a nation. I suspect that the breadth and the depth of her influence reaches far greater than any of us know, and certainly farther than Nechama ever thought. Those affected by her, are her “children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

The other side of the story is a community who embraced a challenge. Who saw an opportunity and grabbed hold of it. A community of individuals, who chose to let their lives be affected by an innocent girl. Through them she lived her dream. Through them, she fulfilled her self-proclaimed purpose. In a far greater way than she ever could have imagined. A community who set an example and who found strength within themselves that they never thought possible. I am just an outsider who had a brief glimpse into what happened last summer, yet we have strong feelings of הכרת הטוב for all that had been done for us and especially to the Sh’or Yoshuv Kehilla and the greater Far Rockaway / Five Towns Community. Anyone who was involved will attest to the unprecedented אחדות from last summer.

I am aware of a number of people who continue to allow Nechama to influence their lives. There are individuals who are learning משניות with the intention of finishingמשנה all סידרי ששה. For some of them, it is the first time that they have learnt in years. There is a couple that learns together each night in Nechama's memory. There is a family who keeps a picture of Nechama on their refrigerator to remind them of what is important in life. Last summer, someone started saying an extra פרק of תהילים each day and continued even after Nechama passed away. There are at least 3 Gemachs created in her memory all revolved around בשמחה . And of course, the hall named for Nechama as "Ateres Nechama Liba". I am sure that the list expands on and on. All for a young girl who somehow touched their lives.

We need to look fear in the face. We need to look grief in the face. That means that we must continue to say תהילים, to learn and do מצוות . The list of חולים continues to grow. We can

make a difference. Like the ניפטרת, who didn't waver when she knew what the end would be. It only made her stronger. We can make a world of a difference in someone’s life just by opening a תהילים, making a phone call, offering to baby-sit or go shopping. One might start a חבורה or designate a shiur or give some צדקה in the זכות of a רפואה שלימה . The next time we are faced with a challenge and we remain בשמחה, we are allowing ourselves to be affected by Nechama Liba. It doesn't take much to see that there are people who need us, we just need to open our eyes to what is around us.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Today is the 1st year English "anniversary" of Nechama's passing. A picture is worth a thousand words. If Nechama can smile like she does in this picture not knowing when her last day would be, can't we?May Hashem give us strength and courage. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Soon after Nechama Liba's letter was published in the Olemeinu, we received an anonymous post card in the mail back in December 2004.
It reads:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Holman,
I hope all is well with your family. There is something that I would like to share with you even though you don't really know me. My name is **** and I’m in the midst of a huge crisis. All i do is cry, cry, cry and ready every day, and try to get some chizuk over my difficult situation. I am not easily moved; but your daughters letter to Rabbi Stein O"H was mechazek me very much. I felt as if she wrote this letter to me from "Gan Eden." I read it again, and again, what a special neshama. I hope that Nechama Liba will be mispallel to Hashem to send all of us who need yeshuas and and nechumas (like her name) to be given to us quickly. Thank you Nechama Liba for being mechazek me. I carry your words wherever I go!! (Signed)
My Goal is to post at least 2x per week on Sunday and Wednesday.