“I keep a smile on my face all the time. Since my husband’s suicide attempt my heart is crumbling, but my face will never show it. I only share my tears with my pillow at night when no one else is around. I smile for my children and for my husband because throughout it all, I know that God is with me. Otherwise I just wouldn’t be able to go on another day.”
Ettie isn’t a stranger to challenges. The oldest daughter of a large family, she has been caring for others since she was a child. Ettie spends her days cleaning hotels, and evenings cleaning private homes in Eilat, where she lives with her family. Her 12-hour workdays are tiring, but she has stayed strong and determined to give her children a better life.
Ettie’s husband Meir held several jobs over the years including working as a deep-sea diver off the coast. About eight months ago his leg was seriously injured, and he was no longer able to work. Even though it was a job-related injury, his employer used loopholes to find ways to pay only a minimal monthly stipend while he recovered.
The physical and emotional pain was tremendous. Worst of all was Meir’s frustration at seeing his family’s income crumble, knowing there was nothing he could do to help his wife provide basic necessities for their family. The torment built up and soon Meir was diagnosed with clinical depression.
Meir began taking medication which helped at first, but last February everything changed. In a moment of desperation, he attempted to take his own life by swallowing over 120 pills in the course of 8 hours.
Ettie came home after one of her long days and discovered her husband unconscious on the floor, so she called for help. When the ambulance arrived, Meir was barely alive. He spent two months clinging to life and upon awakening it was clear that he suffered severe brain damage. Currently Meir is able to function on the level of a small child. It is unclear how long rehabilitation will take, and whether or not there is a chance that he will ever be able to work or function as an adult. Ettie is just grateful her husband is miraculously still alive. She hopes and prays every day for his complete recovery.
When I ask Ettie how she feels about sharing her story online, her response is not what I expect.
“Yes, my story is painful and difficult, but I’m not embarrassed to share it. Maybe someone will read it and feel comforted that their troubles aren’t as bad as mine. Maybe someone who does have difficult struggles will see that I am carrying my burden with faith and strength, and it will give them the courage to do the same.
I wish I could only be on the side of giving. I never turn anyone away at my door- I’ll give them the last coin in my purse. That’s how I was raised and that’s how I raise my daughters. If sharing my story will bring comfort to someone else, even if no money comes from it, that would be worthwhile too.”
Ettie is still working 12 hour days and trying her best to care for her two daughters, ages ten and eleven. They are applying for disability for Meir, but it will take a number of months until they are approved. Ettie desperately needs $1800 to get her through the next few months just to cover basic expenses.
The hardest part for Ettie is seeing her daughters suffer. She needs to spend time with her children, as they have also suffered from this crisis. Last week Ettie’s daughter told her that she was so unhappy with her life that she too would like to commit suicide. The only thing holding her back is the knowledge that her mother would suffer terribly from her loss.
“My daughters don’t understand why they can’t have summer camps, dental work or English tutors- things their friends take for granted. They see how I struggle to make ends meet. We receive leftover food packages from local hotels three times a week. I appreciate what they bring, but it rarely looks presentable. I reuse the ingredients and try to turn it into something edible such as soup or patties.
“Everything in our home is second hand. Nearly all of the clothing and sheets in our home are hand me downs. The dresser was left out by the trash… I’m happy with my lot and I don’t complain, but I dream of being able to buy my daughters new sheets- a matching set- from a store…
“My daughters are such sweet, precious souls. Today they wrote me a really touching birthday card: Mother we love you dearly and appreciate everything that you do for us. It touched my heart and made me cry. I just wish I could do more: protect them from the debt collectors, buy them a solid pair of shoes, take care of their teeth, and pay for a tutor.”
Ettie asked me to share a beautiful poem that she wrote to HaShem, who is her greatest source of strength and comfort throughout her troubles (Here it is in translation):
You dwell within the very beats of my heart.
To You I turn when troubles tear me apart.
You are with me now in this very place,
You warm my heart – You, G-d of Grace.
You have formed the roots of my soul,
Your breath of life makes me whole.
I am but dust and ash before You,
My prayers and Your blessings get me through.
Your gentle wings are spread to protect
From the frightening heights and terrible depths.
Your eyes always open, gazing with love,
I know that Your miracles will come from above.
Despite everything Ettie has gone through, she has kept a smile on her face. Your contributions will put a smile in her heart as well.
PLEASE take a moment to make a small donation, and to share Ettie’s story. She has been the sole support of her family for so long, let’s show her that she’s not alone anymore.