'If only you cared, when I was fragile and scared'
This is a story about me,
Malky, of blessed memory,
I was always pure, with a learning disability,
Scholastic success came with much difficulty,
I had so many talents, unique to me,
Judging only by academics, I was marked a 'C'.
My pure heart always wanted to share with humanity,
A kind word, a smile, filled with sensitivity,
to make people feel special, and treated with dignity,
That was the the person I wanted to be.
I had struggled many years alone, silently,
Most people didn't know my challenges constantly,
To keep up with my class, I struggled daily,
Never giving up, I advanced incredibly,
I knew I'm not the best scholastically,
But does that negate my creativity?
Does that mean I'm worthless, without quality?
Should that ruin my dreams for all eternity?
Are academics the most integral part of being a wife?
Is that how most people get through life?
Do good grades help, in times of strife?
These feeling pierced my heart like a knife.
I was still fragile, working to keep the pieces together,
My 8th grade teacher, believed in me forever,
I was determined not to let her down altogether,
And promised to do my best, and even better.
Oh, but my teachers didnt know, I always tried my best,
Even when I didn't get 100 on every test,
My disabilities separated me from all the rest,
I simply couldn't fulfill every request,
Failure made me feel I wasn't good enough, at least not yet,
Little did I know, hashem had limited my skill set,
Effort didn't count, teachers goals I had not met,
But I did my best, there's not one shred of regret,
Time for high school, I was hoping to do well,
And break my previously haunting spell,
I tried so hard, but soon my heart fell,
When I was expelled from school, with no good reason to tell,
I was so embarrassed, I'd hide home all day long,
Wearing my school uniform, without feeling that I belong,
Do I deserve this humiliation? Had I done something wrong?
I begged and I pleaded, but the schools rejection was very strong!!
When after three months, one school had pity on me,
from my prison, I was finally set free,
I was determined to prove, I'll get my degree,
And finally find my place in humanity,
My parents got me all the help I needed to achieve,
In me they always did believe,
After a long day in school, not really grasping,
I sat all evening with tutors to help me with understanding,
It was like going to two schools in one year,
Finally I buckled, it was too much to bear,
the subjects that were so simple for the rest of my grade,
Took me hours to complete, with enormous amount of aid,
Although I was doing well, I still felt dejected,
I stopped caring, and my grades I neglected,
If this is the only way not to be rejected,
This is not the life choice I had elected,
I passed the point of fragile, Now I was broken, beyond repair,
Like the plate of the 'tena'im' they break on a chair,
I started feeling and thinking life isn't fair,
How could it be? Where do I go from here,
Without many details; for years I went on searching,
For a place where I'm appreciated my soul was yearning,
It may be something other than learning,
But at least I'll have a reason to get up every morning,
I was so scared to try new things, for fear that I'd fail,
My confidence was shattered, belief in myself very frail,
the special talents I had, remained suppressed,
Failure was an area that I didn't want to invest,
The love my parents gave me was unconditional and true,
How I appreciated their acceptance, I made sure they really knew,
It gave me the determination to want to heal,
And live a productive life, one that is real,
The struggles I went through may seem to you as negligent,
But I assure you, the way it looked, that's not what it meant,
For when one is in such pain, in a constant descent,
Escaping those feelings, is life's rent,
The amount of times I fell, and stood up tall,
That's because my parents, I could always call,
I was young, but not strong enough to walk without a fall,
When I felt my future blocked by a BIG wall!
I had my special connection with Hashem, I knew he was there,
Even when I didn't understand, my life very unclear,
My parents knew, I felt Hashem near,
That I was a thinker, you may not be aware,
Don't judge a book by its cover,
We simply need to understand one another,
Show respect and value for who they really are,
Even you! Even you, need recognition to shine your own star,
The story I'm telling is not just my own,
So many children in this pit are thrown,
The dark abyss is what they see as their own,
Shame, degradation and rejection is why they moan,
In honor of my neshama, please make a change,
And stop judging all within range,
Try to feel another persons pain, think what their going through,
Don't look at the surface, how it looks to you,
We aren't all gifted with the same talents,
And we don't all share the same set of parents,
But to hashem we are too precious to miss,
To each of us he gives, a unique life purpose,
Am Yisroel is a nation that should be a unit of one,
Sharing the burden of suffering, second to none,
The willingness to help and support is readily there,
If we only stop for a moment, to observe, to listen and to hear,
In Tragedy We see Am Yisroel, how they get together,
As a team, any storm they will weather,
Realize, these children too aren't looking to cause us pain,
Understand them as a tragedy, simple and plain,
Don't criticize their parents as failures, and say it's their fault,
Their reward for suffering, is locked in a special vault,
Let's care about each other's problems, as if it's our own,
Then the real 'Ve'ahavta Kamocha' will be shown,
If only your cared, when I was fragile and scared,
I wouldn't be broken, these words would be unspoken!!
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 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 have a slight glimpse into 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.
Malky lived a life of unimaginable pain. Hundreds, if not thousands, of pure, innocent children, are living in the same pain. Some are just starting to feel it, some are knee-deep in it, and unfortunately, some are at the hopeless end of their battle, ready to accept defeat.
How does a pure soul like Malky end up in such a dark place?
How does someone as special as Malky end up losing her life to the perils of substance abuse?
More importantly, what are we, as a community, doing to help the thousands of Malkys in our community that need our love, acceptance, understanding and assistance now before they have no choice but to find substances to dull their pain?
The answer is soul-searching, intellectual honesty and most of all proper education. Education for parents, teachers, mentors, and education for a community.
Yedidyah is an organization in Eretz Yisroel that has developed a Torah-based approach that provides early intervention in a positive way that assists thousands of children and teens to better deal with many of the issues of our time. Yedidyah was founded by Rav Yechiel Jacobson, author of the best-selling book, “ Al Techetu BaYeled – Do Not Sin Against The Child”, with the blessing of HaRav Yechezkael Abramsky Zatzal, and continues to operate quietly with the support and encouragement of Gedolim from all facets of Yiddishkeit.
The professionals at Yedidyah have no agenda, and work to help children appreciate themselves, understand their minds bodies and souls in a non-pressurized way that doesn’t use Yiddishkeit as a forced way of compliance, rather gives the children an appreciation for Yiddishkeit from within themselves. It highlights the beauty of belonging, the beauty of emunah and closeness to Hashem.
Yedidyah works closely with parents, schools, Mechanchim and mechanchos, via seminars and other learning and teaching tools, to provide proper education and guidance to foster a sense of acceptance and belonging to each and every Yiddishe Neshama, regardless of their personal life obstacles or learning disabilities.
In Malky’s memory, her family wants to bring Yedidyah to the USA, to establish a branch that will help schools, parents and the community at large to reach every child, before the pain overtakes them.
Harav Naftoli Horowitz, shlita (Krula Rebbe), Harav Avrohom Chaim Steinwurzel, shlita (Rav D’kehal Mateh Efraim and Rosh Yeshiva Shaarei Yosher) and Malky’s parents R’ Avreimie & Rivka Klein, have launched the project to raise the necessary funds to launch a Yedidyah branch in the USA. They have reached 75% of their goal, and need help reaching the finish line. The campaign page can be viewed at www.unidy.org/malky
Malky’s life was filled with pain and is no more. Doing what needs to be done to avoid more unnecessary tragedies will give some meaning to Malky’s passing and transform her pain into impactful change in our community in a real and meaningful way.
The Seforim say that 30 days before a person departs this world, the Neshama feels it.
This past Erev Shavuos, Malky was in California- where she stayed with a wonderful family to escape the difficulties she felt more acutely in NY – and she called her father saying that she wants to buy her mother a gift. “She does so much for me, and I don’t do anything for her” Malky said.
She wanted to purchase a very expensive diamond bracelet from Cartier. Her father acquiesced, saying that they are deserving, his wife deserved to receive the gift and his Malky deserved to buy it for her.
After it was purchased, she said she wanted to write something. Her father offered to take her to buy a Hallmark card. She didn’t want a card. She wanted a paper to write a long letter. She sat in her room in California, together with her younger sister who was there for Shavuos, and she cried bitter tears as she wrote the letter.
After Malky’s passing, her sister asked her mother to see that letter. “I didn’t see what she wrote while she wrote it, but to see the scene of her bitterly crying as she wrote it, I knew it was something special and powerful”. Indeed, it was beyond incredible. She wrote how grateful she was to her mother. She wrote that he gift wasn’t just for this Yom Tov, it was for all the Yomim Tovim. It wasn’t for this birthday, it was for all her mother’s birthdays. It was years of pent up emotion, all expressed in one heartfelt letter. In a sense, it was her farewell letter to her mother expressing her love for being there, for always trying, for always supporting her.
It was her way of telling her parents that she knew that they did right by her, and that she will love them eternally, regardless where her life took her and when her life on this earth ended. She specifically asked that the bracelet be engraved with an expression of her love, and even after she left this world, that reminder is still there, as a sort of sign to her parents that she is no longer in pain and they should cherish her in death despite the fact that she never cherished herself in life.
Every child’s Neshama is a priceless diamond bracelet; Let’s make sure they feel it inside and out!
To give meaning to Malky’s death and be a part of the solution, visit www.Unidy.org/Malky