Tuesday, September 18, 2007
GUEST POST BY CE
I had a friend once, back in high school and for a number of years afterwards. We eventually went our separate ways, but there were times when we communicated quite a bit. He was intelligent, curious about things that most classmates didn't take much interest in, and he was full of life. He had energy, he had his own rules, and he had a strong desire to be extraordinary. He was confident there wasn't anything that he couldn't do, but he knew that he didn't want to do what everybody else was doing.
He didn't like regulations much; and although he wasn't anti-authority per se, he preferred not to take authority seriously. When he was happy he was very happy, and when he was down, he was very down. He believed in himself, and he wanted to find an outlet for some deeper energy that was bottled up inside, but he was sure that it was somewhere off the beaten path. He wanted to understand himself, he wanted to understand the world, and he wanted to understand reality. He looked in many places, but after being raised in a frum community he suspected that the answers were elsewhere.
Sadly, his father was extremely sick since he was a child, and as a result he didn't have a father in his life. In school he was, at best, pitied by the faculty. Living in New York – where it's easy to be overlooked – he was more or less left to his own devices. His mother, a special woman, was as caring and dedicated as she could be (her situation is one that I cannot imagine, and this was only one element of the complexity of her circumstances), I don't know how she managed to cope, but she did an amazing job. He wasn't neglected, and he wasn't disliked. But outside of his home he WAS underappreciated, and he could have used guidance, which he ultimately found elsewhere. Often, when I ran into former classmates, they'd ask me about him, but unfortunately I had to tell them that we'd been out of touch for a while. Many rooted for him – he was daring, without fear, he often did what nobody else would try. Everyone who knew him thought of him as unique and everyone wondered where he would end up… myself included.
He experimented with many things. He traveled to various places around the world for long periods of time. He tried his hand at various ventures. He read, he enjoyed many genres of music, he made unique friends and acquaintances – many of whom really cared about him. The years passed and, unfortunately, I don't think he felt that got very far when all was said and done. I can't remember all the things we spoke about in the hundreds of hours that we conversed, but I remember him telling me – at least 10 years ago – that he had broken his fear of death, quoting Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" (which might be surprising, because when we studied it in class he was seldom there): "A coward dies many deaths, a hero dies but once." Tragically, he recently died a violent and horrific death in the NYC subway system, 34 years old. May the Neshoma of Gershon ben R' Mordechai Leib rise up to the heights, TNZB"H.