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Ordinary People, Extraordinary Acts

August 14, 2009
Alexander Bogen
Jeanne Daman

How do you deal with the certain death of your child? How do you accept the inevitable loss? Diana will need to summon the type of courage that allowed Jeanne Daman, a Belgium Catholic, help nearly 2,000 Jews in hiding while acting as a weapons courier for the Belgium resistance, all before she turned 27.

 

Sometimes, I wonder about the meaning of coincidence or if what arrives at the same time is meant instead to be significant and meaningful.

            On the day of my father’s 78th birthday, when I arrived from lunch at work, I received among other mail a calendar from the United States Holocaust Museum (www.ushmm.org). Before I opened it, I read my incoming email and noticed another Noah Update from his mother, Diana, knowing that reading the email and opening the pages of the calendar would both bring a flurry of emotions.

I tore open the What You Do Matters Calendar which has 12 pages of “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Acts” and read of acts of great heroism and photos mostly about people I had never heard of. These include Alice Goldberger, who after losing her whole family, “became parent, advocate, and counselor of 24 traumatized child survivors, some as young as four,” and Alexander Bogen who led the Jewish resistance unit Nekamah (“Revenge”) in the forests of Belarus, who “sketched his comrades in battles and life in the Vilnius ghetto, ensuring that evidence of their brave struggle would live on.” I was struck by the mitzvahs of these unsung heroes who had helped their fellow human beings during and after the most horrific moments in human history.  

The sudden glimpse again of the Holocaust gave me the courage to read Diana’s update, knowing that she was certain to find out more about Noah after the doctor’s tests. She started with the “good news” that Noah came home, was excited to use his own bathroom and to go down the stairs, and that he “had to touch everything in the house. He kept saying—Look at this! And I forgot about that! It was fun to watch him be excited about his stuff.” Then, he went fishing with his grandparents and his Uncle Mark, raced down the aisles of Wal-Mart where his grandmother works, and will stay this weekend with his mom at a friend’s house and “play with his friends, Evan and Ally, on the beach in the dirt.”

            Then, Diana went on to the “really crappy news” that the cancer has rapidly spread through Noah’s bones, that the MIBG scan lit up on every bone and that Noah’s “spine was lit up like a Christmas tree.” The cancer is his “spine, head, arms, legs, pelvis, hips, and collarbone and well you get it.” Dr. Yanik said that there were two options, to send him home on true hospice which would give Noah 1-2 weeks to live or to keep his blood counts up with transfusions and heavy pain medication, which would give Noah 4-8 weeks more of life. Diana and Scott chose the latter.

            How do you deal with the certain death of your child? How do you accept the inevitable loss? Diana will need to summon the type of courage that allowed Jeanne Daman, a Belgium Catholic, to help nearly 2,000 Jews in hiding while acting as a weapons courier for the Belgium resistance, all before she turned 27.

            Diana focuses instead on what she has now. “For this weekend,” she writes, “I am going to play with my son and enjoy watching his smiling and laughing face having fun in the sun and dirt. This weekend will be the weekend that I will hold in my memory for the rest of my life.”

            An ordinary mother never chose these extraordinary circumstances but she has courageously handled the worst that a parent can face.

Diana will give Noah every little mitzvah she can for the rest of his life.

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