We are ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim, and we know that it’s really Hashem Who pulls the strings
was an ordinary Sunday, 15 Teves 5779, when we received the gift called Alta. It had been six years since our first child had been born, and now we found ourselves in St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, England, hoping desperately that this time we would return home with a baby. Then the doctor came out to me with an inscrutable expression and gave me the bad news. “You have a baby who is alive, but she isn’t breathing on her own and she will not live, Mr. Fixsler. Get used to the idea, and update your wife.”
I stood there in the cold corridor, alone, and I burst into tears. But I didn’t have much time to cry, because I had to break the news to my wife. Before I could do that though, I was called for a meeting with some of the senior doctors, who explained to me how serious the situation was. They didn’t even give me time to absorb what was happening. They just wanted me to agree to disconnect the life-support machines, because as far as they were concerned, it was a waste of our time.
I very gently shared the news with my wife. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Avremy, promise me that you won’t give up on the baby. Promise me that we’ll take her home at any cost and in any situation, because that is what I want. This is my child.” This is the strength of a Jewish mother.
She was the one who put me in the right frame of mind, and reminded me why we were in this world. There, in the room, I promised her that I would turn over the world to take Alta home.
That was the beginning of an excruciating journey that took three years. Three years of hope, three years of tears, three years during which we wanted only one thing: to take Alta home alive! We fought the battle of Hashem, but also the battle of regular parents who just wanted their child.
Those three years seemed like an eternity, and for us, they will never end. After all the suffering, the decree was cast. We fought hard, enduring nine complicated court cases that cost a fortune of money, but a heartless judge decided that our Alta didn’t have the right to live.
ut we are ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim, and we know that it’s really Hashem Who pulls the strings.
On 13 Cheshvan 5782, in front of our eyes, with a minyan of Yidden in the room, the doctor and nurse walked in and simply switched off the life-support equipment. They didn’t look at us and didn’t say a word. There was no apology, not even a glance. I cannot describe what we felt then.
As I write these lines, my tears are dripping onto the keyboard. There was a feeling of humiliation that we, as parents, couldn’t do the minimal act of protecting our child. A feeling of failure. But we also understood that it’s all from Hashem.
With tears in my eyes, I declared to all the Yidden who were there, and I spoke to Alta — to whom I spoke a lot — I told her that it was Monday, the week of Parshas Vayeira, which retells the episode of Akeidas Yitzchak. There are no coincidences in the world. My name is Avraham, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu asked me for my dear daughter Alta, my Alta whom I loved, as a korban. And from that moment, I gave Alta to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. I accepted that whatever would happen to her was in His Hands.
Alta fought for her life for a few more hours, and her soul departed with Echad. The people in the room at the time related that they clearly sensed something lofty and holy at that moment.
endured the levayah, and then it was all over. But for us, Alta’s parents, it was just the beginning of the pain, the emptiness. We no longer felt that intimate partnership that we previously felt with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
It’s months later, and I still wake up from vivid dreams, perspiring, sure that I took Alta out of the hospital while she was alive. These are things that become harder — they don’t become easier.
I travel the world to tell over Alta’s story, because the chizuk that I offer to others gives me chizuk as well. The emunah that we absorbed as children accompanies us. So does the knowledge that we tried to do everything we possibly could for Alta. That is the real nechamah — that is the balm to our souls.
Dear parents, I ask you, for the aliyah of the neshamah of Alta bas Avraham, invest in your child, even if he is different from what you expected. Or, reverse your approach to parenting, and let go of your expectations. Invest, and appreciate the gift that HaKadosh Baruch Hu granted you. Our job is not to succeed. Our job as parents is to try our hardest, and to invest the maximum in our children, even when it is hard for us — primarily when it is hard for us.
Parents of special children: Know that you have the privilege of being chosen and trusted by HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Take pride in your child, and take pride in your job in this world, and in the bond that is forged between you and the third Partner: HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
Avraham Fixsler lost the fight to keep his two-year-old daughter on life support when a British court determined the switches be turned off. He can be contacted through Mishpacha.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 929)
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