Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Yosef My Son"

There is a song written by Moshe Yess about a child during the 1940's in Germany.
The Nazis come and take his parents away. Although he is just young boy of 9 ,he manages to run away.
He emigrates to Israel after the war.For decades, he believes his parents to be dead. One day,he is praying at the Kosel and hears a familiar voice praying next to him.

"That voice,that's my father's voice."

They are reunited once again. His parents had survived the war
and believed he were dead as well. I feel a chill down my spine
each time I hear that.

Whenever I feel the overwhelming pain, I will try to picture what the reunion with my child will be when Moshiach will come. This might be where the intellectual meets the emotional but until then, the pain remains.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


The theme of rachamim is one of the most prevalent themes in Jewish text. How many times do we ascribe the trait of mercy, rachamim to Hashem? We affectionately refer to G-d as “Avinu”, our father, during fasts and the days of awe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. We repeat over and over the 13 middos of Mercy. Hashem, Hashem, kal rachum vchanun erech apyim,rav chesed vemes nosayavon etc..– Hashem, Hashem, G-d, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth etc... Again and again we attribute the G-d with being merciful and compassionate.
Homelessness is rampant in the United States. It is so common that we have become immune to it. We tend to view them as crazy and incompetent because otherwise they would not allow themselves to remain in such a predicament. While, this may be true, believe it or not, it is a fact that some homeless people were once respected, highly competent professionals such as lawyers, stockbrokers and investment bankers. Perhaps they snapped one day and couldn’t take it anymore. Imagine for a moment an investment banker who held a prominent position in a well-respected firm. He was responsible for millions of dollars and led a large staff of intelligent individuals who were only too willing to answer his beck and call. Perhaps he had a successful marriage with 2 perfectly behaved children (now you know the story is fiction).
Now imagine that there was another employee who desired all that this person had and systematically and single- handedly tricked him into losing all of the money which he was responsible for, causing a snowball effect which caused him to lose his job, destroy his marriage, ruin his relationship with his children and leave him without the prospect of ever getting a job again. This man became homeless living on the streets for 20 years jobless, homeless and demented. Imagine the feeling that this homeless individual, once happy and respected, would feel if 20 years later he saw the man who had caused his life to spiral out of control was now president of his old investment firm. Now, lets say that he offered the homeless guy a job as a janitor. Imagine the anger, resentment and utter hatred he would feel working as the janitor of his old foe. Never mind respecting and caring for him. Every instruction would be at best painfully fulfilled.
There are people who live with ailments for their entire lives even innocent children. How could Hashem do this to us, to his children? How can Hashem make some suffer for their entire lives yet expect us to love him, and serve him with joy? As parents, we love our children and we discipline them from love. Sometimes a parent might punish or even hit them. Parents do this out of love for the child and with the hope that ultimately the punishment will be for the best. But it would be unforgivable for a parent to punish a child in a way that he would have to live with that punishment for life. When we hit it is temporary. At worst even when we yell or punish, we mean for it to last temporarily, just long enough to have the desired effect. We cannot relate to permanently, certainly not purposely, inflicting a lifelong punishment on a child. How do we emotionally, mentally and physically deal with this?
The simple answer is that Hashem gives us challenges. Difficult, unimaginable challenges. But the choice to suffer is our own. (To Be Continued)

Friday, October 21, 2005


As a bereaved parent, we always worry about the effect that the death of a child will have on the other siblings. Sometimes, we worry that they are too affected. Sometimes we worry that they are not affected enough. Then there is the fear that they will forget their sibling. Of course, I can only imagine the concern that people have when a new child is born. The struggle knowing that this new child will never have known their brother\sister. The key is to keep your deceased child “alive” in your home. The link below is an award winning article written by the son of a friend of mine. His brother Ari passed away. If you ever had a doubt about the effect that the death of a sibling has, you will doubt no more after reading this.
It is too beautiful to describe, so you will have to read it for yourself.

Light in Darkness By Zachary Grashin

Monday, October 17, 2005

Be Brave

Several weeks ago, Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv sent out a letter that we wrote along with a cd of the shloshim speeches. Yesterday, while doing the usual erev Sukkos shopping, I was lucky enough to meet a good friend that I hadn’t seen in a while.
I could tell that he was nervous but he was brave enough to tell me how inspired he and his wife felt from the cd. As he turned to walk away, he said” Your daughter was a special girl and the whole community misses her.” He had no idea how much that meant to me. Imagine if he had kept that inside.
People on the “outside” always think that bereaved parents are uncomfortable talking about their deceased child. In my experience that has not been the case. On the contrary, most parents that I have spoken to, love to talk about their child. It is personal feeling and depends on the parents, personality of the parents, age of the child and the relationship between parties. But most people I have spoken to appreciate when someone asks them about the child or if you tell them that you miss their child. Even better is if you tell them a story that you remember or in some way that your life was affected by their child. And of course any pictures, videos that you could share are considered an invaluable gift.
The bottom line is that assuming you have the relationship, feel free to talk about their child. The risk is that they might bite you but it is worth the risk.
     The Jewish world is such a small world. A close friend of mine told me that whenever he meets someone and he asks, “Do you know Glen Holman?”  If they do not recognize the name, he says,” Did you ever say tehillim for “Nechama Liba bas Saguite? That is her father.” Usually, they did. Everyone davened for her, he told me.
Wishing you all a Good Yom Tov!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is clearly a difficult day for everyone. For a bereaved parent especially, the awesomeness of the day and the realization of what is at stake only increases the intensity.  Unesaneh Tokef strikes at the heart of the significance of the day. I could not help but relive the previous Yom Hakippurim where we pleaded with Hashem to heal our daughter. In his great wisdom, in which we have no understanding, he chose not to. During Maariv, we recite a tefilah comparing G-d to different tradesman – a glacier, a carpenter and relate how simple man is to manipulate by G-d. It means that with a “flick on a finger”, Hashem could have healed Nechama but chose not to. I pray that G-d will give us the strength to truly believe that this is a chesed for us.
The last tefilos of the Yom Kippur davening are Shema Yisroel recited 3 times and Hashem Hu HaElokim which is recited 7 times. Recited is an understatement, scream is a more accurate term to describe what actually occurs. I once read a vort on what to concentrate when reciting Shema. Hashem represents G-d’s mercy. Elokim represents the strict judgment aspect aspect of G-d. When reciting Shema, we should keep in mind that Hashem (Rachamim) and Elokim(Din) are one. It is same Hashem who deals us a blow that “gives us a kiss on the forehead”. We scream towards the heavens but the goal is to pierce our hearts.
The Yomam Noariyim leaves us all feeling pretty emotionally drained .Wishing you all a Truly Sweet New Year filled with all the brochos in the world. I pray that Moshiach will come soon.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Piece of Cake

I recently received this via email. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Gmar Tov!

[Starts Here] Sometimes we wonder, "What did I do to deserve this?" or "Why did God have to do this to me?" Here is a wonderful explanation!

A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she's failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away. Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, "Absolutely Mom, I love your cake."

"Here, have some cooking oil," her Mother offers. "Yuck" says her daughter.

"How about a couple raw eggs?" "Gross, Mom!"

"Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?" "Mom, those are all yucky!"

To which the mother replies: "Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves.
But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times.
But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.

Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.

I hope your day is a piece of cake.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Letter to a Parent #2

I can truly feel your pain. Like you, my daughter Nechama Liba meant the world to me. The pain when thinking about her is overwhelming. It is total in its force and presence. I appreciated this past weekend very much and somehow it lifted, in some way, a burden from my shoulders. I feel for those who were in our group and hope and pray that they will have success.
I am concerned for those who are afraid that if they stop hurting, then they might start forgetting. In some ways the pain is the only thing that bonds us to our children. It is the proof that the love and the relationship were real. Feeling pain is the only way of us showing our love… for how can one remain happy after the loss of a child? Were we to be happy, wouldn't that be a sign that we never loved... or that we no longer love the child we lost. Wouldn't that be a sign of being callous?! In many ways, pain, and grief for a lost child is inevitable. There will always be times when, whether we like it or not, that a parent will feel that pain. It is part of you.

However, What if instead of being pained by the loss, or paralyzed by the loss, we gain strength from it? What if we were to use that relationship to give meaning to our lives? Imagine if those moments that are the most difficult...the ones that gave us the most joy when our child was living.... were used as a remembrance.
It would be like a reliving of what once was. The pain at those shul on Simchas Torah or at home during a Shabbos seudah.... is the most painful because of the lack of presence of the child that we lost.

Perhaps an approach is to turn the entire thing around. The natural way is to live in pain for fear that we will forget and run away from those experiences that are the most painful because of the lack of presence of the child is so deeply felt. Why not, forgive ourselves, and draw our strength from our child, and run towards those experiences, (the ones where the lack of presence is felt) and use it as a way to remember. My daughter is my inspiration. She lived for years, knowing she would most likely die young with a big smile. She didn’t let fear of her own death stop her from living her life. I will try to draw strength from that, by not let her actual death stop me from living mine. My daughters’ death has changed my perspective on everything. When I stop and appreciate my other children, it is a testimony to my daughter. That creates a connection to her. I have learned from her and it is in thanks to her. That creates a bond that is real.

After all is said and done, the pain is real. I miss her and no one can take that away. I loved her and she loved me and nothing will ever change that. She will always be my little girl in my heart. I will cherish the memories and will always long to be with her again. Every day I will work towards being the best person that I can so that one day, when I die, I will be worthy to spend eternity in the holy place where she currently resides. At that time this life will seem like a fleeting moment. Until then, I will draw strength from her memory to weather the difficult days and the rest of the time use it to give meaning to my life.

Monday, October 03, 2005

ICU- the real test

Recently, I went to visit a cousin of a friend of mine. He was on a respirator in the ICU. He was a young father and seriously ill with the machla. I have never been uncomfortable around the hospital setting. Not before nor during nor after Nechama Liba's illness. I walked over to the room and saw a familiar sight, tragically familiar. The IV, respirator, ET tubes, pumps, and monitors were all too familiar. I glanced at the machines, perhaps I shouldn't have but I did. To be honest, it was difficult for me not to keep my eyes fixated on the monitors. It was like a drug. I needed to see the numbers. Back in the hospital over a year ago, my eyes were glued to the monitors, day and night. Before I fell asleep, I would close my eyes with the vision of the heart monitor and wake up to the numbers.

Now, facing this young father, my heart was racing, knowing that the numbers could change in any second, as they so frequently did. I remembered how we hung onto any small improvement as if it meant life or death in that moment. I said Tehillim by the bedside, trying to imagine what this man was like when he was healthy. The Mother was a powerhouse of strength. The father was noble and strong. I was in awe as I understood what was going on inside of their minds. I recognized what strength it took to keep their heads held high. The young man’s wife was sleeping on a chair. Her mother said that she was the strongest one.

The father thanked me for coming. The mother asked me if I was a friend of her son. I said no. I had come because I could relate to their situation as I had been in their shoes once. T told her that I had been in the hospital with my daughter for almost 6 weeks while she was on a respirator. I knew the question that would come next. I could feel my own heart beating.

"How is your daughter?” she asked.

Baruch Hashem, I replied.

"How old is she?” she asked.

Intentionally being vague, I replied simply, "10."

"Hashem was kind to you”, she said.

"Yes, he was", I said and I meant it.

I had no intention of telling her that my daughter was in a similar circumstance but she died. Some people might disagree, but I saw no benefit in saying so. Here was a woman who had the right mindset, full of emunah. Who would I be helping? When there is life there is hope and it was my hope that the end for this man would be different.

“You passed the test", she said.

"Ma'am, this IS the test!"

I don't know if she understood what I meant at the time but as I explained to the father at shiva that the outcome is not in our hands. Here was a man who had done absolutely everything in his power to help his son but probably felt, as many of us have, that we failed. The real test is how we perform under the incredible stress and challenge of the situations that we are put in. The outcome is Hashem's decision. And IMHO, this family passed with flying colors. The family should be a zechus for the entire Clal Yisroel. May the nifter watch over his family and the entire Clal Yisroel.

Kesiva vChasima Tova!

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