Doing Something

For 515 days, my sister and I shared my Facebook profile picture, smiling to the world from a little circle above my name. My cover photo was taken that time we went to Jerusalem and she posed with my children on Yoel Solomon Street.

515 days ago I sat down and looked through all my pictures to find one of her actively living after 22 months of watching her actively dying.


Now, I update the images.


My heart trembling, I write:

Changing my profile and cover picture feels like a betrayal. As if Hudis should be everywhere I am, leading me with every interaction I have online the way she walks ahead of me wherever I go. But it’s also relieving in a way like I’ve let her be my little sister again and no longer hold her above me. She’s plastered on my heart, etched on the inside of my skin…her image, a collage of the face I met when she was born, the face I kissed when she died, and every moment I saw her in between, is bright and beautiful and tucked away in the drawer of my soul where the most precious parts of me go.

My daughter is watching me closely, reading over my shoulder.

“Ima, your words…”

She kisses me gently and wipes the tear that formed when I saw that she gets me.

The night my sister died I couldn’t sleep. Words were marching across the inside of my brain, demanding I let them out. I sat up in bed and wrote my goodbye.

“I figured it out,” you said.

“I know what death is.”

It was last August, at the end of an epic summer, and you were saying goodbye.

It was in the living room – on the couches you hated and in typical fashion, you spoke bluntly and decisively about the topic most people avoided around you.

“It’s just my body.  That’s all it is.  And I am not just my body.  My body is sick…my body will die…but I am so much more than that.  I am everything else that I am, and that will never die.”

Oh, Hudis…

You are right.

You will never die.

Your body is here now – finally pain-free…finally unhooked and untethered from everything that you are…

And Hudis you are everything.

You are the strength of a thousand people…

You are the courage of one lone soldier against a mighty army.

You are the love that binds hearts together….

You are the innocence of a million children

You are the joy and laughter of uninhibited play…

You are the song that rises from the brokenhearted…

You are the notes teased from ivory keys, rising and falling with every breath you no longer need to take as you write the lyrics to the greatest song on earth…

Hudis – we will play that song…

We will add notes and harmonies and a baseline that keeps us moving forward.

We will write the stories of our heavy hearts and weave them through your lines.

We will create a bridge that connects it all and we will sing it…

And we will surely sing it too loud and too intrusively and off-key – the only way you can possibly sing a song that can never die.

Achrona, achrona chaviva Hudis.

Save the best for last.

You’ll always be the best.

It was read to her body before we took her to a hole in the ground and covered her with dirt.

We sat.

We sat in our puddles of grief and people came and tried to comfort us.

But I am not comforted by words spoken at me.

The words that comfort me fly from my fingertips, race across the screen and scream with intensity as my lips close and my heart slows and I can feel my lungs fill with life.

Still, I have to do something.

My father set up a table with a box.

Chai Lifeline.

People dropped their dollars in as they left the weeping house. Death makes you want to do something.

I sat at her computer and wrote again.

A lifeline is a rope…a chain…a ladder
thrown into the depths of hell
pulled back into a safety net
where there is air to breathe.
A lifeline is strong…sturdy…unbreakable.
A lifeline is a last hope…an only chance…a leap of faith.
A lifeline comes at a moment of despair
a moment of panic
a moment of confusion
and slows down time
so the path can be seen.
It is a painful path
a broken path
a path full of pitfalls and craters hidden under beds of green
but all along the way
the lifeline is there
ready to jump in
ready to provide a hand
ready to descend into the pit
and pull.
That is a lifeline.
Then there is Chai Lifeline.
And suddenly
there is a way to be more than
the only possible way.

I sent it to myself and printed it out.

Her name was on the top like she had written it.

from: Hudis Storch
to: Bracha Goldstein

We made copies and put it on the table with the box of money. When we got up and walked around the block we had done something.

We started living again.

But we still wanted to do something.

Hudis was determined to run the Miami Marathon for Chai Lifeline. The day she was supposed to fly out, she woke up with a fever. She took her suitcase with her to the hospital. She never made it to Miami. She made her own finish line in the pediatric oncology ward in Robert Wood Johnson and crossed it with a smile that tricked us all. She looked so alive. We couldn’t have known she only had four months left.

Two of my sisters decided to finish it for her. They started raising money before we even go up off those chairs and they ran and walked and pushed themselves harder than they ever thought they could.

I watched them and felt something stir.

I wanted to do something.

I crossed the ocean when it was a year and kissed the slab my sister lies beneath. I wrote again because I don’t know how to do anything else. This time I read it out loud and my voice shook.

I can’t fly to Miami and run. I can’t keep the picture of my baby sister in front of me always. I can’t get my revenge on cancer. I can’t dig up the dead and force the world to stop and remember my sister and all the people actively dying while we passively live on.

My older sister is running the marathon again.

I can do something.

I can write.

And I can tell you about this life and this world and the bits and pieces of who we are as we pass through. I can string words around so that you get how it feels to want to do something as you watch people who have more courage than you can imagine walk into hospital rooms, look cancer in the eye and ready their weapons to fight, no matter how many battles they may have lost.

Chai Lifeline does something.

You can too.

Support my oldest sister as she runs for my baby sister.


Click here and donate.

“Ima, you’re writing again?”

I look up at her, knowing she will read my words one day.

“I’m doing something,” I say.


Life In The Poor Lane

My hands shake with hunger as I peel and slice the three small carrots I have been saving since Sunday.  I saute them in oil to add some fat to my meal.  There are two slices of bread left.  I sit at the table, place my little girl on my lap, and begin to dip the crusty bread into the oily carrots, eating slowly and carefully.  I smile at my daughter as she munches her food peacefully.  My insides are churning with anxieties.  I do not know how we will eat again, although I know we must.

We go to the park to pass the afternoon hours.  I watch my child play with the other children and find myself wondering what foods they left on their plates today.  I turn my head to hide my tears and silently pray for help.


It hasn’t always been this way.  It was easy for us in the beginning.  We both worked hard but brought home a decent combined salary with enough left over for some small savings.  Despite an overwhelming bill from a medical situation, we were pulling through remarkably well.  We worked for non-profit organizations that provided us with the means to do work we felt good about and be able to afford to give of ourselves the way we loved best.  Our home was open to anyone.  We thrived on having guests for Shabbat and giving teenagers who had no place to go a warm bed and a listening ear.  Our lives were full.

When the financial world went into a crisis, we felt it first.  No one wanted to support the programs my husband and I were involved with.  Within the year, it was all over.  The doors of our respective institutions closed forever two months apart.  Our savings we had been so proud of did not even equal the amount of one month’s rent.  We entered the world of poverty.


I call my husband.  My voice is unsteady as I explain the situation to him.  He will have to ask again.  We must buy some food.  We hang up wearily.  The shame is nearly all gone.  It is becoming easier to ask and even easier to take.

It is past nightfall when my husband returns home from work with 100 shekels in his pocket and invitations for all three Shabbat meals.  We make a list of essentials, forgoing anything we can live without.  Bread, milk, eggs and basic vegetables will be all.  Fruit is out of our budget, although I know my husband will find a way to buy an orange or two for Shabbat.  I cannot complain as I now have more than this morning.  My husband sees the despair in my eyes and tells me it will be okay.  I try to be strong for him.  I feel so guilty that I cannot bear this burden with him.  I have our daughter to care for, as well as our unborn child who will soon need me to go on bed-rest.  I know we are doing all we can.  I am still unable to let go and trust that it will really be okay.


We are managing, and even I can start to see that it is only through miracles.  Somehow, we have become accustomed to this new lifestyle and we have even managed some joyful moments.  I have not yet accepted it.  I still resist and resist, even when it is so obvious, but I am losing this battle.  I am poor.  I am relying on charity to live.  It is a reality I have to learn to face with the joy my life deserves.


It is Thursday night.  The kids are in bed and I am waiting to hear what our Shabbat plans will be.  I ache to be the one to nourish my family this week.  I am tired of eating by other people, slowly cutting up chicken to make it last longer.  I want to cook a big pot of soup and bake challah, maybe even some dessert.

A noise startles me out of my desperate thoughts.  The gate to the courtyard closes softly and my heart begins to pound.  I peer outside.  There is something on the floor.  I am not expecting anything.

My husband comes home to find me weeping on the ground.  He rushes to me with concern.  I raise my tearful eyes to him, a smile stretched across my face and laugh with the most joyous feeling in the world.  The three boxes I am surrounded with are full of food.  There are enough chickens for three Shabbatot.  Rice, beans, barley and pasta, tuna, tomato paste, and corn fill one box.  There is cereal, formula, diapers and fresh wipes as well as soap and shampoo.  The last box, full of more groceries, holds the items that have given me the most joy.  I take out a bag of treats for my little girl, and a few bars of chocolate for a tired, worn-out mother of two.


It did get better.  With a lot of hard work and the kindness of strangers, we got on our feet.  We now have enough each month to get by on our own.  We recently hosted guests and had the opportunity to help others.  It is a slow and steady climb out of the dark, but we have experienced something we never could have understood before.  The love we felt that one time lifted us out of feeling so low and forgotten.  It stayed with us long after the food was gone and propelled us into a new dimension where we could believe, trust and hope.

I am not yet in a position to give freely, but I know that when the time comes, I will have that bar of chocolate in mind when I go above and beyond what is expected of me.