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Kindness In My Community: The Story of Chaya Mitchell

Chaya Mitchell was a beautiful, vibrant girl who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She did not know that she was ill; she was in Israel for seminary and started having headaches. After returning home due to the severity and pain of these headaches, she found out that she was suffering from cancer. Her family tried every treatment possible, but she did not respond to any of them. The tumor was inoperable. Chaya was not going to be with us very much longer.

Today, June 17, at 5:00 AM, Chaya Mitchell passed away.

But I do not want to write about the sadness. I want to write about the goodness that I saw within my own community, the beauty and the love that was shown to her family and to her. There was no one who was not affected, no one who declined to help the Mitchells. There were many of us who felt helpless, but we all did what we could.

There were doctors, nurses and other professionals who gave of their time to help Chaya eat or feel more comfortable, giving her massages or otherwise helping her. There were the people who cooked meals, bringing them over to her family. There were the girls her age who took the trouble to come to her house and paint her fingernails and toenails. There were girls who held Tehillim groups at her house and Tehillim groups at Stern, who came and sang with her or otherwise amused her, who visited frequently and often, always trying to entertain her.

There were organizations that created songs for her or Chai Lifeline, which sponsored a trip where she was able to go to Disneyland. There were people who sent her gifts or added to her collection of keychains, beads, cards or balloons.

And then there was the Tehillim group for her created on Facebook.

For me, this is one of the most amazing parts of the story. It is amazing because it is the part I know best. I was invited to join this Tehillim group and of course I did. I also invited others on my Facebook account, simply because it was easier to invite almost everyone rather than distinguish between those who knew her and those who did not.

There were many people- friends of mine, people who are merely acquaintances of mine, even fellow bloggers- who startled and suprised me by their kindness. Because they volunteered their time and chose to say a perek of Tehillim every day for Chaya, a girl they did not even know. A girl who could not be to them the many things she was to me, the many things she was to those who really knew her and were her closest friends. These were people who were touched by her story or who simply wanted to help, people who were kind.

That amazes me.

Further- today I wanted to somehow spread the word, to inform others of the loss to our community and to our world. So I set my away message on AIM to read:

    Only the good die young.

    My friend Chaya Mitchell passed away today. I don't know what you do or if you're even religious, but if you take a moment to think about the fact that we have one less wonderful, beautiful young person in the world, I would appreciate it.

    Thank you so much.

Friends of mine- people who are not Jewish, who are not religious, who do not know her- wrote me the kindest, sweetest words, telling me that they were sorry. Which meant they had read what I had written and taken a moment of their time to think about Chaya, or rather to think about her in an abstract way, to realize that someone special had left this world.

And this is something that I see as being total kindness. Because it is easy to be kind to someone you know, someone whom you have seen or met or spent time with. It is easy to care about them. The difficult thing may be to mantain that caring, to consistently continue to offer that level of support. But the initial emotion is not difficult.

Not so with people who did not even know her. And yet these people joined the Facebook group, these people write me such kind messages- these people, too, offer their words for Chaya, to Chaya.

In a way, Chaya's slow, drawn-out death brought a sense of unity to our community. Everyone wanted to help in some way, whether it be providing food or baking challot or opening their homes to the family. Even those who were not close by would write messages in her online guestbook, which would later be read to her. The response of our community was a truly beautiful thing. It is kindness epitomized.

And that is something that is wholly and totally to Chaya's credit- a great zechut that she brings before God. No, she was not able to learn as well as she might have wanted while in the last stages of her debilitating illness. And no, she was not able to participate in her beloved singing or even perhaps in her prayers. But she was able to bring together an entire community and to instill a sense of love and care.

This is her merit; this is her power. This is her defense before God.

The kindness that she created.

The kindness that was embodied in her.

2 Comments:

Baruch Dayan HaEmes.
Her neshama should be Oleh, and she should be a meiletz yosher for all of us. Her legacy lives on...

By Blogger jewmaican20, at June 22, 2007 9:06 AM  

Thank you, Chana, for your kind words about my neice, Chaya z"l. As we near shloshim, the memories burn just as brightly as before. She definitely left this world a better place than when she entered it. We are all truly grateful for the time we had with her.
Thank you again

By Anonymous Ilene Cahan, at July 15, 2007 1:28 AM  

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