Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In Memory of a Student

Nechama Liba Holman , A”H

How was a young child able, in her youthful life, to accept suffering and uncertainty so well? Nechama was 5 years old when she knew she that she was having a tremendous problem, that she needed an emergency bag with her at all times, and  that with every breath going in and out she was thankful, because she did not know where she would be tomorrow. But at that age she was able to accept it, and to have such a great nature that all the kids loved her. The teachers loved her. When she came back to school she wouldn’t complain saying, “Oh why is it me, look at me, I had to be out of school.” Nothing. She was happy to be back and she wouldn’t complain. She would come into the library, sit down, and pick up the books. She would smile when she came in, and smile when she was going out. Never, “Oh, I didn’t have the book, oh, why didn’t you have this . . . .” Nothing. She accepted what she had and she went on her way. At times other children (they should live and be well and not know of any tzoros) would complain that there are not enough books, that this or that is not right. Not Nechama. To me, this was not an ordinary child. She was just an angel. You hear children say, “Where did you go on your vacation?” “Oh, I was bored, I didn’t like this, I didn’t like that.” I never heard Nechama say this. I never heard her complain that a vacation was too long or too short or not good enough. Never. That is so unusual, and how many of us can emulate it?. She wanted only to be alive, and to be with her loved ones. She was happy. She wasn’t looking for anything above and beyond. We who are healthy walk around and say, oh, the weather isn’t good enough, and oh, this wasn’t right, and I couldn’t buy that, I couldn’t go there. We always have a whole list of complaints and things we must have to make us happy. Here, a young child who knew she was sick was able to accept everything, just happy to be alive. What a lesson that is. We can’t afford to forget her, because then we would have to say on Yom Kippur, “Oh G-d I shouldn’t have asked for this, I’m sorry for that.” Nechama accepted life, and we have to learn from her. It would be a wonderful lesson. How much we would learn someiach b’chelki, to be happy with my lot. We say it, but we don’t know how to live it. She lived it, and if we remember this lesson then we can never forget her, because she internalized those words, being happy, satisfied, and content. Now she is in Heaven with all the other angels.
Nechama Liba, a zeese neshoma, an angel that we were blessed to have for such a short time. Nechama Liba with her gentle and giving nature, accepting life’s challenges without complaining, taught us all how precious life is -- to be thankful for every moment of life. Nechama, in my mind’s eye I see you in our new library looking at and enjoying the books, and telling us all to be happy. We all love you and we will remember.
     ----------written by a  teacher

Sunday, May 21, 2006

In Memory Of a classmate

Bnos Bais Yaacov is the school where Nechama Liba attended. She passed away before the school opened its new building, but the Simcha hall is named after Nechama Liba. Ateres Nechama Liba is a befitting memorial for Nechama who was so full of life and happiness. A beautiful plaque is being prepared that will situated on the wall right outside the Simcha Hall. The plaque will contain 2 poems written about Nechama. One is written in Hebrew and one is written in English. In addition, a leather bound book was presented to us that contains letters and poems written about Nechama by her peers and teachers. I will present them on this blog. Here is just one of the entries in the book written by a classmate:

Nechama Liba A”H, was my classmate.  She was a very special girl.  Everyone enjoyed having her as a friend.  Whenever anyone was upset or having a hard time, she would always make them happy with her big smile. Nechama Liba A”H, learnt and taught us a big lesson - she taught us to smile. Even now when we have a hard day, we should remember her smile and try to be like her.
                              --written by a classmate

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Shiva - What to say

Someone is putting together a book on the Shiva experience and I thought I would add a thought or 2.

Please don't ask me if there was anything else that I could have done but didn't
On more than one occasion during Shiva,
I was asked “Wasn’t there something else that you could have done?"
What kind of response are they looking for? "Yes there was but we were sick and tired of trying new things. We figured it was her time to go anyways. Sure we have other kids, so why put all your eggs in one basket." of course we did everything that we could have done.

please don't help me by describing the root cause of why this happened to me. It is not helpful and certainly has no basis in halacha or hashkafa for you to tell me why my child died. I have heard of people who were told that their child died because they ate chalav stam. I have heard of people who were told that their child died because they called their child by a nickname instead of their full name (Chezky instead of Yechezkal for example).

Please don't try to distract me because it makes you feel more comfortable. I recall one fellow, a co worker who started talking about work. I mean details. He apologized and I said oh it is not a problem don’t worry about it. He took that to mean that he should continue.

Please don't judge my reaction. One person was offended since he felt that I wasn't hurting enough.
I was tempted to tell him," well, we weren’t that close. So it’s no big deal. Don’t tell anyone that you figured it out with your keen sense of human psychology”.

Please allow me to be silent. I have been speaking for hours on end sometimes repeating myself. I am drained emotionally and physically. Be there to comfort me and if silence is what I need, please respect it.

Please don't ask detailed questions about the illness, death or accident unless you can tell that I am interested in answering those questions.

Please don't ask “How I am doing?” I lost my child, how do you think I am doing. But you can ask “How am I managing?”

Please ask yourself, before speaking, if what you are saying is for your comfort or mine. Many times, well meaning people say things that are self serving and do not realize it.

My goal is not to start a people bashing campaign or to speak about dysfunctional people.
Everything that I have said is comments directed at normal, caring, well meaning people. If anyone has any comments, please share them.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Saved from Disappointment.sort of.

This past Chol HaMoed, we were able to get tickets to an exciting event. We decided to book hotel rooms close by. There would be minyanim, separate swimming hours and loads of kids. We practically couldn't control our excitement. We decided that a surprise for the kids would be the best way to go just in case it didn't work out.

The anonymous voice on the phone at the reservation desk seemed understanding of our need to have adjoining rooms and would put in the request. It couldn't be guaranteed but we should call the morning of the trip to confirm. The night before the trip, I decided to call the hotel to make sure that we were confirmed. Thankfully, our rooms had been confirmed just as we had requested with 2 side by side rooms. I expressed my appreciation and was about to hang up the phone when a little voice in my head told me to double check that side by side rooms meant adjoining rooms. The bomb dropped. The rooms were not to one another but not adjoining.
I frantically called the manager to try to work things out and closed the door behind me so the kids would not walk in. But as life goes, while I was on the phone, one of the kids walked in. "GET OUT OF HERE! I AM ON THE PHONE" AND WAVED MY HAND ANGRILY. I wasn't about to ruin the surprise. Unfortunately, there was nothing that they could do as the adjoining rooms were already taken. My wife and I jumped into action. We researched hotels on the internet, made numerous phone calls. No one could guarantee adjoining rooms unless we came to the hotel. No amount of reasoning or logic could change this. I tried explaining to college age "reservationists" that I could not take my kids to NJ only to tell them that we have to turn around and go home. My plea fell on deaf ears. I started to panic. While I was in the middle of this frenzy, another kid walks right in. "GET OUT! NO ONE IS ALLOWED IN THIS ROOM. THE DOOR WAS CLOSED FOR A REASON!"

After another dozen phone calls and hours of internet research, I found a hotel that had adjoining rooms but could not guarantee it unless I came down. It was a holiday weekend and rooms were filling up fast.

We packed the kids in the car and told them we were going on a surprise trip. After 2 hours of traffic and nine hundred questions of “Where are we going? Are we there yet?” we arrived. I told the kids that I was going to go inside the hotel to ask directions. They still had no clue what our plan was. The man behind the hotel desk was able to book the last 2 adjoining rooms in the hotel. Finally guaranteed.

I ran to the car and told the kids about our surprise. They couldn't believe it. The whole trip was worth it just to see their faces.

We unloaded the car; everyone was practically jumping for joy! We took the elevator to the floor, raced down the hall. We opened the door and........the rooms were not adjoining. Now I was really frantic. I had told the kids. I had done everything in my power to avoid telling them about the surprise until it was guaranteed. The hotel clerk said he would see what he could do. Meanwhile, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance. I called back a few hotels that were more expensive, farther away but earlier had told me that they should have adjoining rooms, no guarantee of course. But now they were all Booked.

Fortunately, our hotel managed to find adjoining rooms on the 10th floor. The swimming pool was empty so we had a blast, the rooms were large and we had a refrigerator. It all worked out but at what price. I felt badly about yelling and tried to better understand why my reaction was so strong. I had made a mistake that many parents make.

I tried to save them from the disappointment of life. I tried to be in control so that they wouldn't be disappointed. Yet I could have taught them a much more important lesson in life. Life is full of disappointments and it doesn't always go the way that you expect it. We need to take it in stride. We need to learn that there is good in everything that happens. Sometimes we see it and sometimes we don't.

Btw: I heard that the other hotel was a real disappointment.

Scouts honor, from now on I will be perfect. We’ll at least I hope I learned a lesson or 2.
My Goal is to post at least 2x per week on Sunday and Wednesday.