The MODEH-ANI project strives to spread the importance of an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude each day to every person.
Our personal story began in Tel-Aviv, Israel, on July 8, 2018, when Libi, our 5-year-old youngest son, was diagnosed with a tumor in his brain stem called a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).
There is nothing more tragic than a child diagnosed with cancer. Medical advances in the past years have greatly improved the survival rates for most types of childhood cancer. But there is no effective treatment for DIPG. More than 90 percent of children diagnosed with DIPG will die within 2 years of diagnosis, and most children will live only 9 months.
With this knowledge, we walked out of the doctor's office and tried to figure out how to deal with this tragic news.
It did not seem possible that this was happening to our beautiful, healthy little boy.
A week later and a few days before Libi was to start his 6 weeks of radiation treatment, we heard about a new medical trial at NYU Langone hospital in New York.
We did not hesitate for a moment, and within 10 days, we packed up the whole family — mother, father, and three sons - Michael (15), Adam (12), Libi (5), and traveled to New York to look for our medical miracle.
After Libi finished 2 months of daily radiation, it looked like the tumor had regressed. We decided to remain in NYC as a family for the rest of the treatment and not send Libi's siblings back to Israel.
We enrolled the three boys in the Abraham Joshua Heschel School, a unique school community named for one of the great Jewish leaders of the twentieth century. This community became our family, our salvation.
As a secular Jewish family from Israel, we did not comprehend what the experience of learning in a Jewish school would give to the boys. We quickly realized that the Heschel school and community were a great source of comfort and Jewish inspiration in our new life journey.
The days passed, the boys were fully integrated into the school, Libi's health was good, and we were so grateful every day. Our morale was high, we started to see a near-term future, and it was sufficient for us.
One day, Libi returned from school smiling and joyful, singing a new song - "Modeh Ani". We were unfamiliar with it, but we loved the melody and its lyrics which express thanks for the renewal of life each morning. It turned out that the kindergarteners sing this prayer every morning, along with several other prayers. We learned the words from Libi, and so we were first exposed to Modeh-Ani, a short Jewish prayer that begins the day.
The words of the Modeh-Ani prayer touched our souls and encouraged our spirits - even before knowing of its existence. This is how we felt living in New York during the time of Libi's illness.
We did not let the disease prevent us from living each day to the fullest. Our family was just grateful for every day that we were together, enjoying new adventures, choosing to be happy every day, full of joy, and celebrating without fear.
To our great sorrow and tremendous pain, Libi’s journey in this world ended on February 12, 2019, the same day of his Hebrew birthday, 7 Adar (ז' באדר). Libi passed away in his sleep, surrounded by his loving family. Our unbearable farewell to Libi will accompany us for the rest of our lives; but, among the beautiful memories we have of him, we decided to take the MODEH ANI prayer and, with it, try to give hope and faith to everyone and remind each other that despite the many difficulties we all experience in life, we can be thankful for the single most important gift - LIFE.
We strive to continue to approach life with the mindset of Modeh-Ani and encourage families and children, especially those going through a challenging time, to do the same.
We created an art piece of the MODEH-ANI prayer, made by Israeli artist Liat (Desau) Shuchman. This piece, which includes the Hebrew and English words of the prayer, is designed to inspire gratitude for life each and every day. Its heart shape is a tribute to Libi’s name, which means My Heart in Hebrew.
100% of your purchase proceeds will go to CHAI LIFELINE, who was there for us from the moment we felt most in the dark, lost in a foreign country. We will forever be grateful to them.
In memory and love of Libi, our baby, who taught us the importance of gratitude.
Stavit, Nir, Michael and Adam Barak