I got a text message from my father this morning that the 20-year-old son of my childhood best friend passed away early this morning. My dad couldn't get through to me on the phone, so he sent the text. I've written about the intersection of social media and the end of life before. It's not a new phenomenon that any of us get information via some form of social media. Social media are part of the fabric of all communication now, even the absolute saddest of news a community can now share.
I have read the most moving of words from Reuben's mom Donna on a site called the Caring Bridge. Every day was painful in Switzerland where Reuben passed away. For everyone who read the entries that Donna wrote to keep so many around the world apprised of Reuben's fight to stay with us, it's been a painful couple of weeks. Nothing like their pain, but for better or for worse, technology allowed a great writer to share her hope. It allowed her to gain some small comfort in prayers being said all around the world by those who loved her family. Technology brought so many people together to tragically hear about the end.
It's been an emotional experience for so many who read the entries daily. We've shared the pain of the family in a different way than was ever possible before. Donna's eloquent words brought you bedside daily. The pain of the mother, that no parent should ever have, was shared around the world in real-time. I'd never heard of the caring bridge before. Now I won't ever forget it.
On September 15, Donna wrote:
"I'm not really sure how people ever sat in hospital rooms and just waited before there was technology. You will never hear me criticize Facebook or social media. Your postings, and texts and emails are what is carrying us through. Never again will we doubt the importance and impact of a thoughtful note. You cannot imagine what your words and memories mean to us - the picture they are painting of the Reuben we know and the Reuben you know. Mostly they are the same truly remarkable young man, a man ready to launch into the universe and make his mark. It is heartening to hear of how many of you he has already touched. Please continue to share."
I must admit I was more than hesitant to post anything personal. It seemed to cold to me. I wanted to say it in person... and I couldn't. Even though Donna encouraged it, I just felt like I wanted to be there. Not on Facebook. Not on the Caring Bridge. Wanted to be there in person.
It will be a very long week in the real world before I can pay my sad respects to Donna and her husband Albert and all of their family. Just about 12 hours before Reuben passed away, Donna wrote:
"Frankly, I am no longer cognizant of time. I no longer know what day of the week it is or how many days have passed since I last posted, but it feels like lifetimes.
How long is a lifetime?
Many of you have read between my unwritten lines and instinctively know that the MRI results were "impressive in a very negative way" (the beauty of English as a second language).
The thing about warriors is that they often fall in battle, even the strongest and the bravest. Especially the true leader.
And what of all of the prayers and love flowing as a veritable ocean? Who knew one could ever feel so loved and forlorn all at the same time? What of those prayers, in all those languages and all those religions on all those continents, from people we've never even met? I really wanted to believe in that field of energy, in the power of Reuben's name being shouted to the universe and chanted in healing prayers in synagogues, churches, mosques and Buddhist temples, as well as from humble rooftops? I believed, with some pragmatism, but still really truly believed that Reuben was going to be one of those who miraculously recovered. Your words of strength, your stories of faith, and your reports of coming back from the other side gave me so much hope. Why not Reuben?"
Social media brought an awful lot of people together. And while that's not the real world where everyone wants Reuben to be. Where everyone will cry real tears in. Where there will be a very long and difficult path to tomorrow... it did serve a purpose briefly. Rest in peace brave warrior Reuben Eli Mitrani. I'm so very sad to say goodbye and grateful to have known you... like so many others. The impression you made all over the world will live in our hearts forever...which still isn't long enough for me to answer your mom's question about the leader we lost and mourn today. Not even close.