When you blog and are active on social media you virtually meet others, who then introduce you to others. Even though I've never met some of these people in real life (aka "IRL") I follow their lives, their children's lives, and often their friends. That's how I "met" Lisa Bonchek Adams and Phyllis Sommer. They have made me cry, they have pointed me toward peace, but they have also made me feel grateful.
Lisa Boncheck Adams passed away on Friday. She wrote about grief of all types, but chiefly related to her diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer in October 2012 (I have been following since before then, but especially after the horrible controversy about her public writings related to married journalists the Kellers). In the past few months her social media feeds became part of what I read each day. I wake up in the morning early, check my email, check the news, read TMZ (yes, I admit it!), Facebook, then Lisa Adams' feed. In the past few weeks it was clear, as she wrote, that things were getting exponentially worse. When she didn't update Twitter at all this week, I checked more because I had such a pit in my stomach. When I read the news yesterday, I cried and I was in a bad mood all day even as I was more grateful than ever for my boys and my time with them.
Especially because I know that Phyllis Sommer doesn't have that time with her son, Sammy. Sammy died in December 2014. I followed Sommers' beautiful, heart-wrenching blog posts about her second son who died of refractory acute myeloid leukemia after being in remission following a bone marrow transplant. When Sammy died I was swollen with my own second son, Quenton who would arrive exactly one month later. I remember furtively, tearfully, desperately reading the updates, hidden away from anyone else though I couldn't hide from my own thoughts. What if it were me?!
Adams and Sommers write the truth of grief and illness, no sugar coating. The terror, the helplessness, and even the gratitude. And as I reflect on what the deaths of such beautiful lights and spirits mean to me, and why they impacted me so very greatly, I can say honestly it is because they reflect my own deepest fears. What if it were MY son? What if it were ME missing the graduations, the achievements, the weddings, the grandchildren? [As I type the words, my eyes well over again.] As I strive to teach my sons empathy for others it's not lost on me that empathy is not something I lack (even if it sometimes highlights selfish feelings). I also know that I have so much admiration for these women and their families, who fought so hard for life, to be with others, to make a difference in the every day and in the elevated sense of the every day.
Even though it is not me (but for the grace...) I still feel helpless. So, like many others, I donate money to the causes in Lisa and Sammy's honors. Actually at Quenton's bris I announced we had donated to his St. Baldrick's event, Q's first act of tzedekah.
When Lisa passed away I donated to her research fund at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and then again to Sammy's sister's Yael's recent head-shaving fundraiser, which she did again this year in her brother's honor.
It is not enough, but it is something, and I encourage you all to do what you can to honor those whose lives touch you, who inspire empathy, who inspire gratefulness and greatness.