Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Ray of Light

Miriam Stark Zakon

He was 17 years old. The tumor was deadly. There was no chance of survival, the doctors said. He had a few months at most. “Make the most of whatever time you have left,” the doctors told him. And indeed, Shalom Daniel Ray made the most of the four years he survived. This is a story of unimaginable pain, intense suffering, and inevitable death. This is not a sad story. How can it be sad, when it ends with pure simchah?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Boy Next Door — The Darkness Begins Over the years, I occasionally saw Daniel Ray, who lived in the Har Nof building next to mine. You noticed him, with that shock of red hair and ultra-fair skin, a smiling little boy walking next to his father. Time passed, the smile disappeared, the little boy vanished. In his place was a lanky, red-headed teen wearing jeans and a T-shirt, his handsome face  a little sulky, adolescent angst shadowing his finely molded features. Perhaps it was the first tiny, microscopic collection of mutating cells in his brain stem that changed that sunny personality into something darker; perhaps it was a combination of brilliance — the word “iluy” was often used by his rebbeim to describe him — impatience with others not as smart, and a fierce, fiery determination to get to the truth of things. In a world of gray tones, it’s hard to be a black-and-white personality. Whatever the reason, Daniel seemed to be retreating into a different world.  The bright boy started having trouble focusing on shiurim. Learning lost its allure, and eventually he left yeshivah for a religious high school that emphasized secular studies. His hobbies included computer gaming and heavy metal music. He was, says his mother Leah, “an unhappy young man.” A few months before his 17th birthday, something seemed to change in him.  He decided he wanted a Torah home and switched to full-time learning in yeshivah. He was working, he told friends, to becoming an eved Hashem. To his family he remained withdrawn, but he seemed, at least, to be reaching out and connecting to Hashem and His Torah. In a fairy-tale world, the story would go something like this: Teen at risk sees the light. Gets turned on to Torah learning. Becomes a source of nachas to parents, a “metzuyan” in yeshivah, a talmid chacham, a great boy, a fine husband and father, and a mechanech who works with other kids at risk. Fairy tales are for children. What happened was: Six months after choosing to live a full Torah-oriented life, the mutating cells in Daniel’s brain stem, on the lower back of the brain near the top of the spinal cord — cells which had been slowly, horribly, inevitably growing, waiting for their moment to wreak their awful destruction — reached a critical mass. The ordeal of this brilliant but angry teenager was about to begin. His tafkid was waiting for him.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Weekly Struggle
Shoshana Friedman Cover text: promise big and deliver what we promise
Only Through You
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A response to last week’s letter, “Waiting in Passaic”
Are You Making a Kiddush Hashem?
Yonoson Rosenblum In communal affairs, “one bad apple…” often applies
Chance of a Lifetime
Eytan Kobre I identify with the urge to shout, “No, don’t do it!”
Work / Life Solutions with Bunim Laskin
Moe Mernick "You only get every day once"
Seeking a Truly Meaningful Blessing
Dovid Zaidman We want to get married. Help us want to date
Shivah Meditations
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Equivalence between two such polar opposites is puzzling
Magnet Moment
Jacob L. Freedman Everyone’s fighting a battle we know nothing about
Secrets and Surprises
Riki Goldstein Top-secret suits Eli Gerstner just fine
Blasts of Warmth
Riki Goldstein Keeping the chuppah music upbeat in low temperatures
Behind the Scenes
Faigy Peritzman The intrinsic value of each mitzvah
Good Vision
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Good or bad, nice or not? What you see is what you get
Day of Peace
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz On Shabbos we celebrate peace within and without