Surviving and Thriving


By Blaire Melsky, Participant from Long Island, NY

 It was a late winter evening when I was 7 years old in my bed at New York hospital waiting to be prepped for open heart surgery for the following day. I was watching on this little black and white TV the movie Exodus. Since I am writing about this 48 years later, you can only imagine the impact this movie had on me. Throughout my life, I became intrigued with stories of the Holocaust. I felt like I was looking for more then just the story. I realized it was the answer to survival. I could not imagine how these people survived such brutality and atrocities. How do you watch a loved one get shot in front of you and still go on and live? How do you loose your entire family and go on and live? I wanted to know the secret.

Many years later there was a New York Times magazine article in which the author wrote of her life. She was Israeli and lived in a border village near Lebanon. Her baby, husband, and young son were sleeping. A group of terrorists came into their home. She heard them and grabbed the baby. They shot her husband and son.  She was hiding in a crawl space and to keep the 2 safe she held her hand over her baby’s mouth and ended up smothering him to death. When they left, she ran and never went back. At the end of her story, she eventually remarried and had another child. Again survival. How do you go through such horrors and loss and go on living?

On March 11, 2009, my husband had a strenuous workout at the gym, and after he took a shower, I watched him die in our bedroom. He left behind an 11 year old daughter, an 18 year old son who was in college across the country at the time, and myself, a wife of over 23 years that adored him. My rabbi came over and asked me about the location of my plot. I told him that we did not have a plot yet since my husband was young.

This goes back to survival. There were many times that I would think about how people survived in the Holocaust, how that woman accidently smothered her son and heard her husband and other son get shot. I thought if they can survive, I can. My children said that their father lived his life to the fullest every day, and we are going to honor him by living.

I have always wanted to go to Israel, but now it means even more to me because survivors built Israel. Everyday the people of Israel survive. They are surrounded by their enemies, yet they get up, have their coffee, and go on with their day. In other words, they not only survive, but they live. Now that I am a survivor, I am thriving to go beyond that to live my life to the fullest just like my husband and the woman from the New York Times article. I hope to have a second part to my life as wonderful as my first part.

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