I heard a police officer knocking on the door upstairs, with his radio buzzing noise and directions 7:30 in the morning. Although I knew I looked like the typical nosey neighbor, I stepped outside my door into the hallway and asked him if I could help.
“Do you know where anyone who lives here is? When was the last time did you speak with them?”
“Mrs. Hartman? Carol? She works from home. I saw her last night. What’s going on?”
“Do you know where the girl is?”
Shaking my head no, I tried to figure who he needed to speak with. “I have Carol’s phone number. Do you want me to call?”
But there wasn’t any answer. “I have her husband’s phone number” and told it to him. He dialed and got Michael. I asked him to let me speak to him.
“Michael, there are now two policemen outside your door looking for Carol and Naomi. I have the key. Do you want me to open the door for them?”
Having already gotten the keys when I was looking for my phone, I tried to open the lock, but I couldn’t turn the key. Now I felt panic. “Maybe the key is pushed in on the other side.”
The police officer just pushed at the handle, and the door was opened. I felt relief. Too soon.
I went straight back to Carol’s room calling her. The policemen, I think, stayed in the living room unbeknownst to them standing in front of Naomi door. They reminded me to “Ask her ‘where is the girl’.”
“Carol. Do you know why there would be police looking for you and Naomi?”
“No…” It was a cry, not an answer.
Running into the living room she was greeted by the police (the numbers seemed to be growing.) “Can you open the door?” they asked her.
She did. I was closer to the kitchen and couldn’t see anything. But I could hear. Carol didn’t even go in. She just screamed. I grabbed her as she fell to the floor.
Naomi suffered from border personality, panic attacks, and diabetes besides who knows what else. Naomi died from mental illness. Naomi suffered from mental anguish, physical pain imagined or otherwise. The slightest thing would set her off in panic. This wasn’t the first time or second. But worst, it was always on her mind. She told her mother not so long ago, it isn’t a question of ‘if’ just ‘when’.
Carol sought out all sorts of help. Psychiatry, therapies, she went to ‘healers’, Rebbium, Rebbetzins, doctors. She read and read whatever she could to understand and to try to find help for Naomi. And out of love for her mother, Naomi went along with some of the ideas, even though she had given up long ago.
Naomi was twenty-eight years old. When they were younger, she was my daughter’s best friend. They not only shared the same building, friends, the same schooling until high school, they even shared the same birthday. But more important they shared many deep discussions, secrets, and stories. Naomi lived in my house as much as she lived in her own. I was proud to say she learned to speak comfortably in English because of me. Yet they were not similar at all.
Opposites, in fact. I remember making them a shared birthday cake in the shape of two girls; one with dark hair and one with blond facing each other. Besides their hair coloring, one was rooted to the ground and one was flying in the air. I think it was part of their attraction to each other. They both were ‘out of the box’ and interested in learning the why’s of everything. The direction they chose to incorporate their answers, though, was the opposite, like always.
My children’s childhoods are only with Naomi. She is in almost all of my family pictures. My mother would not dream of coming to Israel without a gift also for Naomi. She was part of our family. Until high school.
That was when Batya and Naomi had less time to spend together since they weren’t in the same school anymore and the relationship suffered. For Naomi that was the time life started to get difficult.
We all have our ideas and explanations, including me, what went wrong. I believe Naomi was born without the capability to filter out what wasn’t necessary to be absorbed. She felt everything. That was why she was such a good friend to so many people. She was loved. She knew how to listen and empathize because she actually felt everything. Any issue that came up to Naomi, was personal, painfully personal, whether it had anything to do with her or not.
She started suffering from major anxiety. When an earthquake was felt in the Jerusalem area, buildings swayed, but there wasn’t any damage. Naomi had a panic attack and needed medical care. She was one of three in all of Israel who did. She had pain; mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Everything was powerful and she was so delicate. She felt great uncomfortableness in this world.
Naomi was extremely bright (and beautiful) and wanted to go far in her studies. But so many things got in the way. When she started college, she got hit with diabetes; which caused pain and needed for her to be more concerned for her medical care. She wanted to be a doctor but realized it wasn’t going to happen. Then as if fighting all her earlier demons she was offered the chance to speak to women in labor about donating their baby’s umbilical cord for research with tremendous success.
Proud of her academic ability, she started looking at everything to be redefined and valued. She decided that she was intellectually unhappy with the system that Hashem created in the world and chose to throw it all out. If Hashem can command the killing of innocent people (like the Amalekites) then she rather not be affiliated with Him. When asked to do any research, speak to knowledgeable people on the subject; her mind was made up. She was not interested.
She once told my daughter, “It is much harder to be secular. I can’t blame Hashem and pray to Him for help. All my problems, they are always my fault.”
Her illness grew bolder, stronger over the last few years and took away her interest in building herself, relationships (though she always had friends), and life itself. For the last three years, Naomi was in and out of hospitals, restricted from leaving since she was a danger to herself. She tried different treatments, medication, therapies’, doctors. Sara, her mother, researched and spoke to professionals, as well as sought out spiritual directions. Carol seriously looked for help, answers and a cure to no avail. But thank G-d she can say she tried. The whole family tried.
Naomi lived with her brother and sister-in-law for a year or two. Her younger brother and his new wife would invite her for Shabbos and make her feel very comfortable. Her sisters in America (one who suffers terribly from chronic Lyme’s disease) would speak with her at length and heard her. Even her Aunt sent money to Naomi to join a program she was interested in taking in the States. Naomi was supported by her family, fully.
Naomi went along with many of the attempts only out of her love for her mother. But Naomi was tired and saw no hope. Her illness was bigger than she was. Even her friends knew. That early morning after one of her closest friend had had a-middle-of-the-night-phone-call with Naomi, she tried calling Naomi back and didn’t get any answer. After not being able to reach the house either, she called the police. She knew.
Naomi, age 28 took her life in her bedroom of her parent’s house. No, that’s not right. Her sickness took her life and she was a victim of mental illness.
HaMakom yenachem et’chem b’toch shar avay’lay Tzion vee’Yerushalayim.
May the Omnipresent comfort Naomi’s family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.