In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2004 / 13 Shevat, 5764

Mikey's song

By Jonathan Rosenblum

A story of inspiration

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | A saga that engaged the hearts of thousands of Jews (and non-Jews) around the globe ended last week in Pittsburgh, with the passing of Mikey Butler. Mikey spent more than half of his 24 years, and nearly 95% of his last two years in hospitals.

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Born with cystic fibrosis, Mikey lived his entire life on the precipice of death. Doctors gave him little chance of making it to his bar mitzvah. By his early teens, he was already directing the emergency room personnel every time he was rushed to the hospital.

Two years ago, he underwent a lung transplant in the hope that he would finally be able to breath freely. Subsequently, he twice developed lymphoma and had to undergo brutal regimes of chemotherapy. Both times, he went into septic shock; once all his vital signs flatlined prior to his doctors bringing him back to life. Eventually the lymphoma morphed into full-blown cancer, necessitating an experimental stem cell transplant in which Mikey's own stem cells were harvested and then transplanted after three days of huge doses of chemotherapy.

By early October, Mikey's lack of white blood cells to coagulate the blood had caused the linings of every organ to fall away. His digestive system, kidneys and lungs were all failing.

Yet Mikey's story is not, in the end, one of terrible suffering, but of faith and triumph. Death was Mikey's lifelong companion. Yet he graduated Yeshiva University, and hoped one day to go to medical school. After his lung transplant, he was the lead drummer at the NCSY West Coast convention, and cut CDs. He kept in constant Email contact with hundreds of friends around the globe.

Mikey, said Rabbi Yisroel Miller of Pittsburgh, was m'lumad b'nissim (a person to whom miracles happened.) He was not supposed to reach adulthood or graduate college or survive the lung transplant. Fifty percent of otherwise healthy people who go into septic shock die; Mikey's ravaged body survived it twice.

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One of his mother Nina's constant themes in the Mikey Updates that reached thousands around the world was using Mikey's story as a way of helping others to recognize the miraculous in their lives. The Butlers worried about losing their sense of the miraculous in every breath that Mikey took, not just in the overt miracles that accompanied him on his uncharted medical journey.

In early September, for instance, Mikey was scheduled for surgery to remove kidney stones that had clearly shown up on two CATscans. But after being wheeled into the operating room, the flustered urologist could find no stones. The non-Jewish doctor agreed, to quote Nina, that "miracle was as plausible an explanation as any other he could offer!"

Neither Mikey nor his equally remarkable parents — Nina, principal of Hillel Academy, and Danny, a judge — viewed themselves as heroes. "We are not unique; our circumstances are unique," wrote Nina, in one of the Mikey Updates. Each Update concluded with the family's signature motto: Day by glorious day. And that is how the Butlers live.

To deal with their ordeal, the Butler's relied on lots of hugging and kissing, and a certain black humor all their own. Upon learning that Mikey was the first recorded case of someone to develop post-transplant lymphomatic disorder for a second time, Danny observed brightly, "Well at least no one ever died of a second round of PTLD." On one of the few occasions that Mikey complained of his situation -- "Abba, I can't see (from cataracts caused by years of steroids); and I can't hear (from years of antibiotics); and I can't walk (from chemotherapy dulling the nerves in his feet). . . ." — Danny replied, "But at least you've still got cancer!"

Through it all, Mikey and his family never lost hope for the future. After the stem cell transplant, Mikey was constantly nauseous from the chemotherapy and in pain from the failure of almost organ. His doctors, however, would not allow him to sleep for fear that he would fall again into septic shock. Yet even then, Danny wrote, "Mikey doesn't want it to be over; he wants it to be better."

"I had a terrific Shabbes [Sabbath]," after a recent Shabbes in which he was able to spend 15 minutes on Friday night and 15 more on Shabbes day with his brother Gavri, who had driven in from school in New York to be with him.

Never did the family doubt that there was purpose in Mikey's life. "G-d is good," Mikey mouthed to his father two months ago, at a time when he could no longer see, hear, breath, walk, or talk. Mikey lived with the attitude that even in the hospital he could find opportunities to do chesed, kindness, for others. The family hoped that if the experimental stem cell transplant succeeded, it would become the standard therapy for overcoming rejection of transplants.

Mikey's greatest gift was the inspiration he provided to others. The eighteenth birthday wish of Gila Kanal, the daughter of one of Mikey's doctors, was to be able to donate blood to Mikey. The list of the most recent donors in Pittsburgh was four single-spaced pages, and it was jokingly said in NCSY circles that the likeliest place in Pittsburgh to meet one's friends was the local blood bank. For two years, a group of 20-60 people, led by Danny's sister Feige, gathered weekly at the Western Wall to recite Tehillim (Psalms) for Mikey.

Somehow the Butler family kept readjusting its standards of normal life, and carrying on: walking back and forth from Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood to the downtown hospital twice every Shabbes; in Nina's case, managing, on one occasion, to be at both Hillel's high school graduation and Mikey's emergency surgery scheduled for the same time. On Thanksgiving weekend, the Butler's hosted their annual Shabbaton convention for counselors at HASC (Hebrew Academy for Special Children) summer camp, at which another Butler child has been a long-time camper. Mikey encouraged his parents to attend a cousin's Shabbes bat mitzvah in Teaneck less than a month ago.

Most exciting, Mikey's brother Gavri recently became engaged in January to a young woman whom he first met through Mikey. Mikey sent out an Email in which he wrote of Gavri: "I love him and respect him in ways I cannot and will not try to put into words. While I have been on a medical rollercoaster, he has had to grow up very fast to fill in gaps no brother should have to."

Late Friday evening, before Mikey's last Shabbes, his doctor Dr. Joel Weinberg, who has devoted himself to Mikey for years, giving up vacations, days off, even his dream of making aliyah (moving to the Holy Land), told him and his parents that the lymphoma had returned. Late Friday night his parents visited him. He mouthed Kiddush sacrament (being unable to talk on a respirator), drank a little grape juice, and did the same for HaMotzi and the special challah delivered every Friday by Rabbi Raphael Wasserman. Then the family sang Shabbes zmiros (hymns), with Mikey, almost totally deaf, lip-synching along and drumming in perfect syncopation on his tray table.

Mikey never realized his ambition of living a single day as a normal person, without 50-70 doses of medicine. But he achieved something far greater — changing the lives of everyone who knew him or even knew of him.

Nina wrote in her last Mikey Update, just hours after his passing, "When playing Tug-a-war with G-d, He wins. Turns out He was on Mikey's side. Now Mikey can hang out with Him. . . . [But] G-d DID listen . . . and we have no regrets. Although it was WAY too soon for us, G-d has been awfully patient. . . .

"Mikey is hearing beautiful music — without hearing aids — breathing easily in a pleasantly warm place, playing the drums and singing at the top of his full, vibrant lungs."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum, an author, translator and lecturer, is Israeli director of Am Echad. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

© 2004, Jonathan Rosenblum