In January my bright, kind, beautiful son, Isaac Moldofsky, died. By suicide. He was 21. It was completely unexpected. We had no idea. He left a tsunami of devastation in his wake. He had no idea. These are my remarks from his memorial service with links added since it’s on the web and all. To reach the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor. Be kind to yourself and those you love.
Isaac was 3.5 years old and it was time to leave the playground. He did not want to go. Ethan was secured in his car seat and I tried to do the same with Isaac. He wanted none of it. I thought of a tip I’d read in a parenting magazine.”Isaac, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is that you get into your car seat, we go home, clean up, have a snack, and watch a TV show. The hard way is I pick you up, wrestle you into the car seat and when we go home, you’ll be in time out. How do you want to do this?”
He looked at me defiantly and said, “I want to do it the hard way.”
It was clear from a very young age that Isaac was going to do things HIS way.
When he was four, Isaac looked at us plaintively one day and asked, “I don’t understand. Why are we in life?”
Isaac often left me tongue-tied. Fortunately, Brad balanced me out, offering thoughtful, logical explanations. But even Brad had his limits. When Isaac was 5, we had to hide The Cartoon History of Time on the high shelf because it led Isaac to questions like, “Why does time move forward instead of backward?”
Isaac had an amazingly active mind. He was a time-traveling child who, at age 6, had the mind and academic skills of a much older child, the physical skills or a slightly younger one and the emotional stamina of a much younger child.
For much of his life, he was out-of-synch with himself and his peers. Preschool worked out fine, but when Isaac went to kindergarten, the differences between Isaac and his classmates were glaring.
Isaac was academically gifted. Giftedness exists on a spectrum the way autism does. And as you move toward the highly and profoundly gifted end of the spectrum, you’re looking at kids with some complicated brain wiring–and the challenges that go along with it.
First grade was an awful year for Isaac. There is a term in education called 2E or twice-exceptional, when a child is gifted, but also has special learning or emotional challenges. In an effort to better understand Isaac and why school was causing problems for him, we took him to a range of specialists. Did he have ADHD? Sensory processing issues? Was he on the autism spectrum? He was never diagnosed with anything. But every report mentioned what a smart and engaging little guy he was.
Adults were charmed by precocious little Isaac. His schoolmates were not.
In second grade, Isaac attended Science and Arts Academy, a private school for gifted students. Ethan had the world’s best kindergarten teacher. Isaac’s path was a bit rockier, through no fault of his own. The differentiated academics were nice, as were the art and music programs. But the value of the school was this:
One day at pick up, a little tow-headed boy named John Powell bounded down the hall toward his mom and me, hand-in-hand with Isaac. “Isaac and I have a GREAT plan! We’re going to be BEST friends!”
It is one of my happiest memories as Isaac’s mom.
(Edited for web: conveniently, John had a younger brother and for three years, the Powell Boys and Moldofsky Boys enjoyed many adventures, sleepovers, and laughs together.)
During Isaac’s tenure at SAA, the school transitioned into a brand new building. Isaac saw the capital campaign brochure and wanted to name something after our family. At $20K, a basic classroom the most “affordable” option was not in our budget. Long story short, Isaac’s young legacy includes the Moldofsky room at SAA.
He was an incredible kid.
But a complicated one. At several times in his life, we sent Isaac to therapy and/or participated in family therapy. The goal was always the same: to help Isaac better understand and communicate his emotions.
He loved the logic and magic of coding and benefited greatly from the instruction and mentorship of Matt Farhrenbacher at Niles West. His guidance counselor, Hope Kracht, meant the world to me, especially during his tumultuous first semester.
When Isaac was 16, he got his first tech job. He served as an assistant instructor at Dev Bootcamp, teaching adults several years older than him how to program. Later, he wrote software for Avant. In the summer of 2018, he became a junior developer at ClearCover, and continued to work for them during the school year. (Updated for web: I was destined to be known as Isaac’s Mom in the Chicago tech community.)
Isaac funded his own summer apartments in Chicago. This arrangement allowed us to enjoy each other while minimizing both his commute and our role as annoying parents. He’d take public transit to the suburbs for family events and then I got the pleasure of driving him home and enjoying more than 20 minutes of uninterrupted conversation with him.
Though he easily mastered several computer languages, Isaac had a hard time decoding his emotions. In our last push before college, we asked Isaac to commit to a number of counseling sessions, emphasizing that this was a gift, not a punishment.
In college, he flirted for a time with the antidepressant, Zoloft, which, apparently, is freely given out at the student health center. When we stressed the importance of entering talk therapy to complement the medication, he brushed us and the meds off.
Isaac matured So Much in the last few years. Our time-traveling child seemed like he was progressing into a more integrated version of himself. He was more fun, more talkative, developed more friendships, and seemed better able to overcome small stresses and annoyances. What we didn’t know, and what NOBODY KNEW was how much Isaac must have been hurting inside.
We were proud of Isaac’s success at school and work, but what we wanted most of all was to raise a considerate, thoughtful mensch. He was a friend to many and an inspiration and support to even more. In Isaac’s final act on Earth, he donated his organs, bone marrow, and tissue to help several strangers. Please pray for sound healing for these recipients, especially for the 16-year-old boy who received Isaac’s big beautiful heart.
We are overwhelmed and humbled by the support that each one of you has shown by being here today, offering your thoughts and kind words, and helping us and each other get through this difficult time. Many of you feel the monumental impact of his short time with us. Please be there for each other, and allow yourselves to be helped when and as you need it.