Even when things are going perfectly, preparing for Passover can be stressful. It’s a perfect storm of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and possibly entertaining or being on one’s best behavior as a guest. It’s no wonder that parents in the midst of medical crises sometimes feel like they are walking a tightrope. For these families, Chai Lifeline serves as a crucial safety net.
“There is a lot of research that documents how stressful holidays can be for families,” said Dr. Cheryl Book, Chai Lifeline’s director of family services. “Illness is an additional stressor. Our mission is to alleviate the impediments so that families can enjoy the time together.”
With its special requirements for foods and food preparation, families whose children are in the midst of crisis can find the weeks between Purim and Passover overwhelming. Chai Lifeline goes the extra mile to make the holiday as special as possible, even when children must be hospitalized. Special Passover meals delivered to hospitals include not only food but everything necessary for the seder. The oversized box is filled with matzah, grape juice, a seder plate and Kiddush cup, and even a hagaddah. Like the Shabbat packages sent weekly, the Passover package includes ample meals and snacks for all of Yom Tov.
Chai Lifeline’s volunteers also step up, forgoing some of their own Passover prep time for families. Achim Byachad, Chai Lifeline’s Chassidic branch, plans a major event for children in the days before the holiday. Without kids underfoot, parents can focus on getting their homes ready and meals cooked. Groups of volunteers often arrange similar events on a smaller scale with the same goal: alleviating family stress by giving parents uninterrupted time.
“We try very hard to help families maintain the traditions and family events that form the rhythm of their daily lives,” Dr. Book added.