When I spoke with Sonya from Chai Lifeline about this blog post, she suggested I write about why it’s so important for me to fundraise for them. Why is it important to my family? Let’s be honest: I have a lot going on as a single parent to my 3 young kids, Brooke (10), Zachary (7), and Joshua (5). My immediate response is that helping to raise funds for Chai Lifeline provides my children with a way to honour and remember their father.
This has become especially important for my boys, who have been asking a lot about Matthew lately. Zachary wants to know how old Matthew would be today, and how we can celebrate him on his birthday. Joshua thinks his dad was a soldier, like the soldiers who died in the war and are honoured on Remembrance Day. They are both struggling to understand death and what it actually means (as do I!). With the help of Chai Lifeline, I have set them up with play therapy, and I try and keep an open and easy dialogue going about their father.
For me personally, these events help ease my loneliness. It has now been over 2 years since I lost the love of my life, and though the grief has slowly subsided, the loneliness is still there. It comes and goes in waves. Being with my kids and keeping busy really helps, but missing that feeling of having a special person in my life is consistent. When I help fundraise and write these blog posts, it distracts me and gives me something positive to focus on. It brings out the support from my community, which is vital in my healing. Plus, nothing beats the rewarding feeling and high I experience afterwards, thanks to how much I have accomplished!
Chai Lifeline has done so much for us over the years, so I asked my friends and family to help me remember those especially touching moments. Here are their words:
We learned about Chai Lifeline in the most difficult way. My best friend Heidi and her inspirational husband Matthew were struggling with terminal cancer. Heidi was heroically (she won’t ever admit how incredible she is) holding her family together. Chai Lifeline swept in and added another safety net below her, giving her and her children love, tangible support and a softer landing. They helped Matthew directly too. When he was too sick to leave the hospital to see Brooke perform (wishing for this opportunity with all his soul), they organized a real-time video of the event. I was on one end of this lifeline, holding up the camera that Chai delivered, so that Matthew could watch the play as it unfolded and Brooke could know that he was present. The feeling was indescribable. Please support this organization — it is filled with resourceful, creative, warm, and truly loving people who hold out hands in the darkest hours.
I saw first-hand how Chai Lifeline helped my dear friend, Heidi. Those early years after she lost Matthew, it was difficult for her to cope with her new life as a single parent; I can’t imagine how overwhelming it must have been. She had too much pride to accept help from her friends, but she let Chai Lifeline in. Their big brothers and big sisters would come over to watch and play with the kids, providing Heidi with time to breathe and regroup. She had no mom guilt of leaving her kids because she knew they were having the best time. I would take Heidi for lunch or for her favourite — a manicure — and I would see the tension and stress melt away. She was able to relax.
It was very hard to watch my daughter Heidi struggle while she was home caring for Matthew those last final months. No mother wants to see her child suffer. Thank G-d for Chai Lifeline because not only did they provide Heidi and Matthew with one last memorable trip before he passed away, but they also planned Brooke’s last birthday party that Matthew would be able to attend. Heidi could not wrap her head around planning a party at that point, and Chai did it all, no questions asked. They got the venue, bought all the supplies, found an art teacher, and put together an amazing event. Matthew was brought to the party for the cake presentation and it was the last time he left the house to attend a function.
I saw how Chai Lifeline was there to help my sister-in-law Heidi with the kids at Matthew’s funeral. Zachary was so happy to have his favourite big sister there and this was vital to Heidi during her Eulogy, when all he wanted was to hang on to her leg. The day Matthew passed away, Brooke was in the happiest place on earth — Disney World — with Penina’s Helping Hands. Matthew would not have wanted it any other way. I love seeing Heidi’s Facebook posts of all the programs and parties she attends with Chai Lifeline such as Shining Stars, Chanukah and Purim Parties, movies, playgrounds, apple picking, and so many more. We don’t live close by and often feel helpless, so seeing the kids happy and how much support they get from this organization means everything to us.
Chai Lifeline has not only looked out for Brooke, Zachary and Joshua, but they think of Heidi’s happiness and well-being too. They have special spa days for moms, and let her drop by their offices anytime, even if just for comfort or a hug. The names Rifky, Nechama, Dina, Sonya, Sarge, and many more come up in most of our conversations, and Heidi talks about them with such love and tenderness.
Chai Lifeline becomes a constant family for those who need it — and we need to keep this organization going strong!
Together with Chai Lifeline Montreal, we are having a Bowlathon on March 4, 2018 to raise money in honour of my late husband, Matthew Morton. Matthew passed away in August of 2015, just short of his 39th birthday. Not only was he a respected doctor at Mount Sinai, but he was the definition of “mensch”: the nicest and most caring human being I will ever know, who was taken from us way to soon.
Please support Chai Lifeline and everything they do by clicking on the image below, and donating to the upcoming Bowlathon, taking place on Sunday March 4th, in Matthew’s honour.