By: L. Halevi
When a young soul tragically passes away, the pain with which they lived every moment of their life touches us all for a brief moment.
After that brief moment, it behooves us to examine that pain, understand its roots and most importantly, for the sake of the pure Neshama that couldn’t bear the pain any longer, and more importantly, for our own sake, look deeply into the void that was left by the departed soul, and recognize that it was more than a troubled soul at the surface, but a beautiful person, with a beautiful life and a beautiful personality that was let down by those that were too cowardly to accept her for who she was.
Malky was one of the sweetest children you could ever meet. She always seemed so happy, she was so well-behaved, and she had an angelic personality. She also had an undiagnosed learning disability, which though didn’t diminish her as a person, and didn’t make her any less deserving of love and acceptance, did make her see herself as “not good enough, not smart enough, and not capable enough”.
Malky’s loving parents spared no effort and no expense in doing what good parents do, and endeavored to get her the extra help she needed to excel academically, to help her feel more accomplished, yet all the tutors and extra help made her feel burdened beyond what she could handle. “ Tutors ruined my life!” she would say, as the stigma of being an “underachiever” surrounded by peers who seemed like overachievers, made her feel like she had no life, and was constantly in school mode. For a young girl, this pain of feeling not understood and not accepted weighed down on her and led to inner turmoil.
Every frum girl can be a Yiddishe Mamme who uses her innate talents, skills and warmth to raise a beautiful Jewish family. Every frum girl should be accepted for her inner beauty and individual abilities, and no frum girl should be forced to overachieve beyond her abilities, and be made to feel inferior for lagging behind in academic subjects that may not be for her.
We love our children and we want the best for them always, but sometimes what we want for them may not be the best for them, and our well-intentioned “interventions” may lead to them feeling bad about themselves, feeling friendless and feeling hopeless. Malky was so talented in so many areas, Malky had so many friends he loved her, Malky had parents and mentors who only wanted her to achieve, yet Malky felt like she was stupid, and that feeling ate away at her day in, day out without stopping.
After many setbacks, many heartless rejections by schools, after the pain of rejection was simply too much, Malky made a conscious decision to no longer try and succeed in school. On that day she dropped out of school, she dropped out of dressing frum; she dropped out of everything that she perceived as being the cause of her pain. It wasn’t a gradual decline, it was like one big explosion; she just jumped off the proverbial cliff and found a whole different lifestyle at the bottom, a lifestyle that served one purpose: to dull the pain.
Throughout her difficult journey, Malky’s parents supported her and loved her unconditionally. Once when Malky was telling her father how she felt so stupid and how she achieved nothing, her father started responded by telling her that everyone achieves different things in different ways, She cut him off and said “You’re my father, you will say anything to make me feel good about myself!”. Indeed, Malky and her father were very close, and he really believed in her and really saw her as an achiever in her own way. Sadly, so many years of non-acceptance by so many others, didn’t allow her to see herself in any positive light.
The pain she carried in her heart was so deep that she couldn’t sleep without sleeping pills, just one of the substances that dulled her pain and allowed her to carry on. Her father says: “I never understood why she needed the sleeping pills. If she was tired, she should just fall asleep! Yet, now, after Malky’s passing, the pain is so deep and unbearable, that for many weeks already I haven’t slept a decent night’s sleep. Yes, I am tired, exhausted beyond belief. Now I understand how she could be tired yet not be able to sleep”.
Malky lived her life for others. She suffered, but didn’t want others to suffer like her. She felt like she had no friends, yet, ironically, she befriended so many people and cared for them, perhaps to ensure that they would not be friendless. Though she seemed happy and content, she said “I haven’t been happy for even a single day in my life, and all my smiles were just a facade”, and it was as if she had a mission to make sure others would experience happiness.
During the Shiva, countless of her friends came in and shared amazing stories about Malky. They shared how she gave them Chizuk, helped them have emunah, and helped them feel good about themselves. The messages that she never felt for herself, she desperately wanted for her friends. She may have had a learning disability on the academic level, but on the human level, on the heart level, on the caring for others level, she was an overachiever of the highest caliber. One girl even went so far as to say “Any emunah that I have is from Malky!”
She was very in tune to her spirituality, and would often tell people that Hashem has three answers to every request: 1) Yes 2) Not right now and 3) I have something better planned for you. She would text this to friends followed with an emoji smiley face – this smile, the one she gave to help others was genuine.
In one of the conversations she had with her father recently, her father said something to the effect of “I feel your pain”. Malky was quick to let him know that no, he didn’t and couldn’t feel her pain. “Don’t ever say that Tatty!” You can never feel another person’s pain. You can never understand the inner turmoil that turns another person’s mind, body and soul inside out, 24 hours a day. There are many things you can say to comfort someone, but never think you truly understand their pain. You don’t.
To read more about Malky’s story and to get involved in the solution, please visit www.unidy.org/malky.