We Are Not Defined By Our Endings

I’ve found myself in “Facebook jail” a fair bit recently. Most recently because I suggested that someone who had minimized the experiences of a victim of child rape should be given an aggressive wedgie. Yes, literally a wedgie:

I do like that Facebook keeps a running log of all my transgressions:

You’re probably curious about what horrible things I said to get myself temporarily banned. Well here’s my transgression from April 30:

Here’s my criminal post from June 8:

And here’s my what I shared in March, which clearly requires a meeting with the Attorney General:

Whatever. I don’t really care. To be honest, I appreciated the break from Facebook. Mostly because it allowed me to retreat to contemplate some horrible news received at around the same time. My old friend Anne-Marie Ready and her teenaged daughter Jasmine had been murdered in their home, just a few blocks away from my own home.

I don’t want to say too much about this horrible event, as it is not my place to dwell publicly on it. I don’t want to cause their family more pain by pontificating publicly about the details of the event.

I do want to share the GoFundMe page for the surviving daughter Catherine, who was also harmed in the murderer’s attack. And I’d like to share these two photos of happier times, about 13 years ago at one of my house parties, where Anne-Marie –and her then toddler daughter Catherine– showed their joyful selves.

Around the same time, Monarch Park Secondary School in Toronto revealed an award they had created in memory of my “nephew” (actually my cousin’s son) Jacob, who had succumbed to cancer in 2020:

And in the same period, the spouse of a friend and colleague also fell to the insidious touch of cancer, leaving behind a young family.

The reason I mention all of these sad events is not to dwell on death or tragedy. Rather it’s the opposite: to remind myself that the manner of death is not what we should focus on.

As I write about often, my own father passed away almost exactly one year ago. His passing was stressful in that it happened after months of accelerating familial challenges due to his progressing dementia. Yet, these months later I almost never think of the manner of his end. Rather I remember the living man, his essence and character.

This may sound odd and possibly tragic, but I do not feel his presence. Since he left us, I have never felt his presence. His ghost does not visit me, neither literally nor metaphorically. Yes, I have dreamed of him a few times. But those experiences were more instructive than intimate, aspects of my subconscious coming to terms with his absence from my life.

I have chosen to accept this observation, that I no longer feel his glow, as evidence that he has moved on to his next adventure, that he does not linger near.

I am okay with this conclusion, weirdly buoyed by it, as it means to me that his work here was truly done. And I hope the same for those other loved ones whom we’ve lost, especially those I’ve listed above.

Anne-Marie, Jasmine, Jacob, and my friend’s spouse were all taken prematurely. Two stolen by disease, and two wrested from us by the hands of a violent man. Yet we must fight not to obsess over the years and loves denied them by their early removal, and instead to value the impact and presence they elicited while they were with us.

None of us knows how we will depart this existence. Quietly in our sleep? Noisily on a hospital bed? Explosively on a highway? Or bloodily at the hands of another? Does the end devalue or redefine the totality of our story? I don’t think that it does.

Most people will remember my friend and her daughter as murder victims. Their digital footprints will likely reinforce that impression. But those things don’t matter. I actively and consciously choose to ignore the happenstance of their mortal conclusions, and will instead celebrate their living impressions.

And I hope that when my own time comes, those I leave behind will do me the same courtesy.