This is almost too sad to report, but her short life and tragic end have been public: Ayelet Galena, who had suffered from a rare bone disease, died Jan. 31.
Galena’s parents, Seth and Hindy Poupko Galena, worked through their own emotions and raised funds and awareness about Ayelet’s illness on a blog. Gabrielle Birkner of the Forward wrote a warm and understanding piece that expounded on the little girl’s "public" plight:
Many of the thousands of those mourning Ayelet today knew her only through the Tumblr blog where her parents chronicled, with remarkable compassion, eloquence and humor, the toddler’s courageous fight.
It is, perhaps, no surprise that were able to laugh through their tears; Ayelet’s dad runs the popular “kosher comedy” website Bang It Out.
The Galenas’ posts were accompanied, most days, by a photo of Ayelet. Early photos showed the little girl, dressed in frilly frocks, bouncing in an ExerSaucer and pulling at the pages of her pop-up book. But as the months passed, and Ayelet’s condition grew worse, the images provided an unflinching look at the little girl’s reality: There were myriad tubes and machines connected to Ayelet’s swollen body and bald head (which was always lovingly covered with a floral hat or headband).
Her Modern Orthodox parents wrote about Shabbats celebrated at their daughter’s bedside, at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital, and about reciting the post-bathroom Asher Yatzar blessing, so that Ayelet’s kidneys might again begin working. (“We need a big night of peeing and prayer,” they wrote on January 30.) Their Tumblr journal, which I’d love to see adapted into a book, has a thing or two to teach all of us about facing life’s greatest challenges with courage and grace and laughter.
There is another lesson to be gleaned from the Galenas’ story, or specifically, from the communal response to it — as gauged by the comments on Tumblr and Facebook, where Ayelet had more than 5,200 fans. In our darkest hours, there’s a natural inclination to retreat inward. But this family shows us how powerful doing the opposite can be. In sharing their private pain, they fostered an extended support network that has, in turn, helped sustain them.
I met Seth and his brother nearly 10 years ago, just as they were starting Bang It Out. I’m not UWS Modern Orthodox, so I don’t "get" all of the references and the jokes, but I have always been impressed by their sticktoitiveness and success, and I always laugh at the jokes I do get.
The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at firstname.lastname@example.org.