Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Seeing ripples

I didn’t recognize her at first. At first glance she looked like a young Haredi woman wearing a long black dress. We talked about how she couldn’t drive and had little sense of direction even around Stamford Hill where she lives.

As she talked, I remembered I had met Leah Stern before. She had astounded me with her story last year. I remember she told me she had a profoundly physically and mentally disabled child who lived in specialized residential care in Israel. 

I remember her telling me she wanted to bring her daughter, Yitty, back to England and with no suitable facilities here, she decided to create a home from home for children with special needs.

She had big plans for the home. She wanted residential care for 25 children and day-care for 50. She wanted a hydrotherapy room, sensory rooms, comfortable bedrooms and a kosher kitchen for the children and their visiting families.  

But in real life nothing came easily – she had to argue for the land. She had to struggle for charity donations. She had to find an architect and sort out planning permission.

When I saw her today, I wanted to know if she had succeeded. 

She told me animatedly that the home had been built. They were now at the stage of doing the interiors. 

She had plans for a fish-tank at wheelchair height in the reception area for the children to enjoy. She was hoping to convince her committee about that, but that the doors were nearly open.

I asked her about her daughter for whom she was building the home.

She told me her daughter had died recently in Israel. She was 14 years old.

Leah was not there when she died, but she asked to be able to hold her daughter before she was buried.

In holding her, and stroking her daughter’s face, she saw how beautiful her daughter was. How beautiful. How beautiful.

To Leah Stern, her child’s death was about love, not about fear.

Although the home in England has come too late for them, Leah says she is still committed to finishing the home for other children and their families. There is still work to be done.

I’m not sure I have the capacity for such grace and determination in the face of adversity.

We don’t all have the same qualities or get the same lives.

I'm more the dreamy type.

I like to imagine we are all making the world a better place

I like to imagine we all have a job to do in doing that

I like to imagine a plaque on a fish tank that says:

In recognition of the determination of Leah Stern, in memory of her daughter Yitty, whose short life started a ripple that reaches to you here now.

There is no Just Giving page but Leah gave me this email address: bayissheli@gmail.com

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