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HAPPY BIRTHDAY #RIP

(Liya Rechtman)– I was casually perusing a home friend’s Facebook (otherwise known as ‘stalking’) with some friends over coffee when the notification “Happy Birthday Eve, Rest In Peace” appeared as a little red “1” on the top bar of the page.

That’s right. Friday would have been Eve’s 20th birthday. I had felt queasy that morning when I woke up and I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t remember just what exactly until Facebook notified me.

Eve and I had gone to the same summer camp for several years. Only once (or maybe twice) in the seven years I went to camp was she in my cabin. We weren’t particularly close. The winter of my freshman year of high school, before our last summer at camp, I saw that Eve had changed her “Interested In” from “Men” to “Men” and “Women.”

I messaged her to tell her that I was cool with her being bisexual. Well, actually, what I said (because I was 14 and not even a little aware of my budding sexuality was):

don worry!
im good @ keeping secrets
esp important 1s, so ur safe.

Eve told me that she had done Day of Silence at her school and been teased for it. I tried to relate. I had tried to do Day of Silence too, but I also sort of used the opportunity to make a big show out of not talking and in order to disrupt my science class. I continued to message with Eve through the spring. She would tell me about kids in her class calling her a “fucking homo” and I would tell her about having the boy who sat next to me in Latin class sign “ROBERT WUZ HERE” with an arrow pointing up in sharpie on the knee fold of my jeans. Our messages ended a couple days before summer camp, with me telling Eve that she should probably delete any contact we had on her wall because she wasn’t out yet to most of our camp friends.

Her response:

eh, w/e, ill live.

A couple days before Eve’s 17th birthday, she killed herself.

On Friday, after reading that notification, I posted “Happy birthday Eve, #RIP” as my Facebook status. It seemed appropriate for a friendship that had taken place in much more depth online than ever in person.

About an hour later, I took it down, disgusted with myself. I hate it when people use Facebook as a forum to air their grief and grievances. Despite my identity as a blogger – and often a highly confessional one at that – I believe in having a certain level of emotional privacy. Remembering the death of a friend didn’t seem like something I should make Facebook – official.

In ancient Judaism, people in mourning would walk the opposite way from the crowd up the steps to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This was intended to make them more easily identifiable. Today, for the first seven days of mourning, the family of the deceased are not allowed to look in a mirror or serve themselves food and they have to sit on wooden boxes low to the ground instead of chairs. These rituals are all intended to draw attention to the mourner. Jewish tradition wants people in grief to have an outlet to make their feelings of pain, guilt, shame, anger, known to the community.

On Friday night, the participants of my program held a Shabbat service. Prayers were beautiful – well lead and well followed by a group of Jewish kids who know their way around Mishkan (the Reform prayer book). The drash (sermon) focused on what it means to not attain perfect justice, and the recognition that we live in a deeply damaged world. The world of the Torah, where absolute good and divine inspiration ultimately triumph over evil, is not our world.

I was already shaking when the time for Mourner’s Kaddish came. I offered Eve’s name up to be mourned by the community. Kaddish forced me to vocalize, to share with my group that I was grieving. The song leader mouthed across the room asking if I was okay and the boy next to me rubbed my shoulder.

Mourning had once again become a communal experience. Prayer, however, as opposed to Facebook status, actually began to lift me from the grief I had been feeling all afternoon. This was an outlet I hadn’t found with Eve at all. The Shabbat evening service was live, not live-streamed, and in that fully human forum I could express, almost wordlessly, all the complexity of what it meant for me to lose Eve.

<3 ConstantLy Liya Rechtman

About Liya Rechtman

Liya Rechtman is constantLy evolving.

One comment on “HAPPY BIRTHDAY #RIP

  1. sometimesy
    June 27, 2012

    I’m sorry about your loss and I absolutely agree with you about the Facebook statuses and grieving. To me there is something intensely personal and private about grief that shouldn’t be aired for hundreds of people (most of whom I don’t even know that well) to see online.
    I very recently (last week) had a high school friend die while studying in Japan. No one is sure of what happened, but his family says he got hit by a train… I don’t want to think it was suicide, but deep down that’s what I truly suspect. Because I’m away from home, I found out through a Facebook instant message that I thought was an awful joke. I just sat and watched as people commented on his page, posting their memories, condolences, and prayers. I still can’t bring myself to do the same, or post a status in remembrance, because to me no online condolences could replace a real “live” interaction with his family and with my friends who knew and loved him.

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This entry was posted on June 24, 2012 by in Queer, Religion and tagged , , .
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