As a young teen, Lynda Fishman would lie in bed and hear her father cry night after night. Fishman, who was keynote speaker at the Jewish Women’s Day Symposium, said he “sounded like a wounded animal. I couldn’t stand it. I used to put my pillow over my head.”
On July 5, 1970, Fishman’s mother and two younger sisters were killed in an air crash. In the years that followed, Fishman made a conscious decision not to let the tragedy destroy her life or future happiness.
Fishman, 13 at the time of tragedy, said her father tried to go on with family life in their Montreal home, but overwhelmed by sadness, he disengaged from her and life. “Although he was not on that plane, I felt like he died that day too,” she said.
However, that only strengthened Fishman’s resolve to carry on, she said. “I put a smile on my face when I walked out,” she said. “I found out if you fake joy you will start to be happy and make others happy.”
At age 17, Fishman met her “bashert,” her husband, Barry, who also had his own share of tragedy in his young life. When he was seven months old, his father came home to find his 32-year-old wife dead on the floor after having suffered a heart attack. His father would also die of a heart attack when Barry was 17.
But, much like herself, her husband “never spent time having a pity party,” Fishman said. He took care of his developmentally disabled brother and resolved to live a full life.
The two have been married 34 years, have three children, and a grandchild on the way.
Fishman documented her ordeal and her strategies for overcoming obstacles in her book, Repairing Rainbows: A True Story of Family, Tragedy and Choice. She has donated profits to charities that support grieving children and families.
“I did not stop crying for a year, but I feel good about writing the book because I knew it would help a lot of people,” Fishman said. “Loss is loss, and my loss is with me all the time…. But we have to let it go and move forward.”
Her suggestions include keeping busy, surrounding yourself with people who aren’t always complaining, spending time with animals, and practicing a Jewish lifestyle of kindness and compassion.