She always struck me as a profoundly spiritual & modest person. She emanates serenity & intelligence, and she loves davening in the beit hakenesset.
I saw her in shul with her teenage & preteen daughters, and their body language as they followed the davening showed that they also absorbed their mother's appreciation of davening in shul.
It was beautiful to see them cradled over their siddurim without raising their eyes from the page. No sideways glances, no elbowing & gesturing & smiling, no whispering...just immersion in tefillah.
Another time, I got an important mussar lesson when observing how this mother responds to people who lack her level of derech eretz & reverence for the shul tefillah.
During the reading of Megillat Esther one year, an elderly Iranian lady sat next to this mother. (They aren't related.) Due to leaving Iran for America in her fifties and then to Eretz Yisrael more recently, this elderly Iranian lady never learned English or Hebrew very well, and understandably prefers to speak in Farsi if she possibly can.
Because the Iranian mother knows Farsi well, the elderly lady understandably likes speaking to her.
During the Megillah-reading, the elderly lady leaned over to the Iranian mother to make a few remarks.
This was very surprising because of the obligation to hear every single word of the Megillah, making absolute silence an imperative.
Also, people from the elderly lady's generation tend to display more reverence for these things because back in their old country (Iran, in this case), breaches in disrespect were not tolerated the way they are today. And those former communities behaved with such respect that people didn't really think to behave differently.
Anyway, the elderly lady shifted back into position and just stared ahead.
The Iranian mother turned her head to gaze at the elderly lady for a long moment with more sternness (not anger, but sternness) than I ever imagined she was capable of.
(Without knowing what the elderly lady said, it could be that part of the sternness related to inappropriate remarks, in addition to speaking when forbidden.)
The elderly lady did not notice.
The Iranian mother was clearly pondering how to handle this breach so it would not happen again.
It's not so straightforward because she cannot speak either, nor can she behave disrespectfully toward an elder.
That's when the Iranian mother rose with firm resolve, walked over to the curtained window of the mechitzah, and planted herself there for the rest of the reading.
This was an excellent resolution to the problem. No one can talk to her now!
And yes, her daughters were all observing this closely. What a beautiful example their mother set for them.
The whole family (with around 8 kids) exudes good middot. I knew the boys first because they went to school with my boys, and I was always impressed with their derech eretz. The older girls I also got to know a bit in shul and always admired their consideration and extra sensitivity toward others.
It's hard to imagine that this exceptionally refined & serene woman underwent a serious trauma as a child.
My children told me that when this Iranian mother left Iran with her family at the age of 5, she did so in a suitcase.
Distressingly, the escape did not go so well.
There was shooting & shouting, all of which she heard while trapped inside the suitcase.
She never spoke about it with the children; her husband (who is also an exceptionally fine person) told them. (She doesn't mind that he did that, but she just finds it too traumatic to relate it herself.)
I don't know exactly how the suitcase worked. Were there buckles or zippers? How dark or stuffy or roomy was it in there? Did she have a way to open it from the inside or was she dependent on someone knowing she was inside to set her free?
She feared she might be shot too or that everyone else would be killed, leaving her alone in the suitcase.
Obviously, she wasn't supposed to be in the group at all, hence the need to hide her in the suitcase. So if her presence was discovered, that was also a severe problem.
She couldn't get out, she couldn't move, and she couldn't even cry out.
All she could do was listen to all the chaos around her & pray for the best.
Fortunately, her family survived the confrontation, she was not abandoned, and she was later released from the suitcase.
I think her parents were also exceptionally fine people and that she was raised very well, but I can't help thinking that the moments of terror inside the suitcase, her child's heart turning to Hashem in those moments, and then her eventual rescue might have a lot to do with her solid emunah & reverence.
She really does give the impression that she's absolutely knows Hashem is always with her and always watching and truly cares about her.
In other words, she behaves as if she is always in His Presence.
It was a horrific, traumatic experience. And maybe the trauma expresses itself in ways I haven't seen.
But maybe it also defined for her how much Hashem is really there for her — always.