Jim's tragedy seemed insulting to my already-injured family. Jim died on Sept. 5; my mom died on Sept. 7. She was 46 and I was 15. Jim was 47 and his oldest child was 15. History, cruel beast, had repeated herself in a mocking chorus of eerie parallels.
From the moment I set foot in the great lodge, I felt like a cradled soul. The counselors and house Moms took my symbolic hand and led me. Over the course of three days, I joined with other people who had lost their spouses.
But when your mom passes away, your perspective shifts. Your sense of normal -- which included having your mom in your life until you were at least middle-aged -- is altered. You reevaluate your expectations and priorities.
The severing of a love relationship through death fractures the foundation of the bereaved. Our culture's common belief that one must rapidly get up and move on after such a loss results in denying death and repressing grief.
The worst part of losing her wasn't finding her body; It wasn't even having to break the news to her mother (my grandmother) later that day. It was the moment I returned to my job and realized that I was expected to simply blend back into society as if I wasn't permanently damaged.
A headline is not a eulogy. A headline's purpose should be to help us to determine what's important in a news event. And while I realize the constant assault of our newsfeeds leads to higher-stake headlines, what's important is that a teenager -- not an "honor student" -- has been killed.
My dad was not superhuman. He was just a man who was operating with the tools he was given by his own life experience. What a cool guy he ended up being, once I opened my eyes, and how grateful I am to have taken the time to get to know him.
When someone like Robin Williams dies it prematurely speeds up life and forces you to stare down directly into the face of mortality. You feel frightened and helpless because, spoiler alert: you are very, very mortal. You always are and will always be.
To say that the life of Robin Williams affected only those in my age group would be incorrect. But for 20-somethings like myself, the passing of our most memorable and iconic comedian is a blow to the childhoods we'll now never be able to reclaim.
I've never had the chance to say these words to him face-to-face. And I don't know if I'd actually waste even one breath on him if he were right in front of me. But if I did have that chance and some breath to spare, here is what I would say.
As part of a valuable experience I was seeking for a story, I worked part time for a week in a funeral home. You know, just to get a feel of what Six Feet Under was like. I have to admit that there is no monkey business to report after a few days, all is calm and regal.
This year, amidst the war that rages on the ground, in the shattered remnants of our hearts, we believe the world needs an extra Shabbat of Comfort, an extra dose of compassion, an extra week to seek comfort for all of God's fragile creation.
Turning that grief into aggression, rage, revenge and anger in the form of hateful posts, violent protests, or further divisiveness among people and nations is not the way to go if you care about human life, human rights, or peace.
I realize nothing can replace a face-to-face goodbye. But I believe the digital clues I've been able to piece together give me the memories I need, and I'm grateful that I was able to witness his life -- even in death.
If Rob were on my couch, I would allow him space to grieve his father. It's not just his father's physical absence that needs to be acknowledged, but the meaning of that loss in his life. I would help Rob see how lost he feels without him.
I never saw a performance of Someone Else From Queens Is Queer, the 1991 solo show of AIDS activist and health policy enfant terrible Richard Elovich, but know it from the text published in the journal Theatre in the summer 1993 issue, which I've always kept a copy of and read every few years.