“How are you? How are you coping?”, questions I get regularly to which I reply “lousy” and “not well.”
The loss of our beloved daughter Daniella is a tragedy we pray that no one has to live through. It is an unbearable burden and yet somehow we have to march on.
Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein, co-founder of Tomer Devorah, the seminary that Daniella attended, suggests that I share with Daniella’s friends some of the thoughts that have keep me sane during these trying times. I apologize in advance if at times I appear to be rambling.
First of all, I must thank everyone who has posted a memory, signed up to do a mitzvah or committed to learn something in Daniella’s honor. The outpouring of love and affection has been very comforting. As an aside, although all mitzvah’s are important and good, I think that Daniella would have favored mitzvahs “beyn adam le chavero” (man to man) because they tend to make the world a better place and become contagious. If you do something nice to someone hopefully they will do something nice to someone else.
The first few days we were consumed with complete and absolute grief. We were numb. We could not comprehend what had happened and how our lives would be forever changed. But when we heard all of the wonderful things that people were saying about her and the mitzvahs they were doing in her honor we had to struggle with reconciling our grief with the naches she was bringing us. We love her so much and she has made us so proud of the fine young woman she became.
How do we cope? First I remember that that we found out that Kerri was pregnant with Daniella the day my father. Sam Lee, Menachem Yishiyaho, died. It was January 26, 1989. Daniella came into the world 7 months later but we needed her right then and there to get us through with hope for what the future would bring.
My father was a Holocaust survivor. He was born in 1909 in Czechoslovakia, got married and had four children. When WWII broke out he was taken to a forced labor camp where he barely survived for five years. In Pesach 1944, his first wife, four children and both parents were taken to a ghetto and then two months later to Auschwitz where they were murdered.
After the war my father married my mother. They moved to Paris where my brother was born. From there they moved to Israel where my sister was born and from there they moved to Montreal where I was born. All of the moves were the result of terrible economic conditions and the search for a better life. Canada was very cold so when I was 18 months old the family headed out to Los Angeles, where my father was told that the weather was like Israel. My parents had no relatives or friends in Los Angeles but remaining in Canada was not an option.
In spite of all the tragedies and hardships my parents faced, they never gave up. My father lost his entire family in the war but started over to build a new family based on principles of honesty and integrity and always committed to his Jewish faith. All three of us went to Jewish day schools and regularly attended minyan at our local shul. We were raised being shomer Torah and mitzvahs and my father set an example for us by not being bitter.
My father was a strong man physically and spiritually and was an incredible role model. I think it is no coincidence that his yahrzeit was on the day that shiva ended for Daniella. She came into the world to give us solace on his passing and his passing was to give us strength on her passing. We have to follow his example of being strong and understanding that we do not know what G-d has in store for us but we have to believe that whatever it is, it is only for good.
Finally, and some may find this to be a coincidence, but it is of great comfort to us to know that at the shiva there were several donation plates and that the total amount raised through shiva amounted to $613! Daniella was committed to Torah, her email address contained the number 613 and I believe that this is a sign from G-d that he is watching over her and us and that things will somehow work out.
I pray that we all can meet only at simchas and that no one has to endure the great loss our family has suffered.
Frank Lee, Daniella’s loving father
P.S. A good friend of ours suggested that I ask Daniella’s friends to write a letter to Gavi to be opened when he turns 18 about what she meant to them. Just a thought.