Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Passing of a Student and Friend

This dismal April day seems fitting to mourn the passing of my student and friend, Sasha Shuebrooke. A member of the CHS Class of 2000, Sasha was good and bright and brave. I found out about Sasha's death in a troubling way. I saw her birthday notice on the left column of my FACEBOOK home page and clicked on it. As I typed a short birthday wish, I looked down the page of other birthday wishes and soon realized that most were wishing Sasha well and hoping she was happy "with the angels" or "wherever you may be." I knew without asking what this meant, but I sent off a message to the person directly below my entry on Sasha's wall. In minutes, he responded, sadly informing me that Sasha had died in early December, 2010. Later, I received an e-mail from her mom explaining more of the circumstances of her death.

Now, a bright spring day would be right for celebrating Sasha's life. A day with sun and a breeze and the smells of flowers and summer! Sasha was so intelligent and creative! A poet! A dancer! A caring person who was great fun to talk with! And Sasha was very brave. Since high school, her life had taken her to New England, to Australia, to Washington, D.C., to northern California, I believe, and finally to San Diego. In her new courageous life, Sasha was a different person, yet, she was the same.

A few years ago, Sasha took a new name. She became Gavi Reichen, and more recently, S.G. Reichen, I guess to keep the name "Sasha" in play. We kept in touch through the years, first with e-mails and then by FACEBOOK, so, I was aware of the interesting turns her life took. I filled out a couple of employment recommendations for her over the years as she searched for the right field to fit her terrific brain and terrific personality. Her high school friends will recall that Sasha always had health problems. Those problems stuck with her, and, in fact, were in a way responsible for her death. Complications from Sasha's disease brought her untimely end.

A memory disturbs me because of my inaction. Probably a year ago, Sasha wrote to me the simple statement, "You don't know how much your friendship means to me." I wrote back to her that our friendship was important to me, too, and that we needed to get together the next time she was in the area. We had said that more than once over the years, but that reunion never happened. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw Sasha.

So be wary of life's easily committed sins of omission. And if you remember Sasha, you might say a prayer for her wonderful, special soul.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Two Questions: "Was the girl from JD grounded from cellphone use?" and "Is there climate change in hell?"

Last Tuesday, Linda and I went to the SU/Cornell lax tilt. How's that for journalistic brevity? If you follow lacrosse, you will know it was a debacle, with Cornell triumphing 11 to 6. When the game is bad, one needs occasionally to people watch. In the row in front of us sat a high school girl with her dad. She was from JD: it said so on her jacket, and when they sat down, I figured she would soon get out her phone and start texting. Miraculously, it didn't happen. She watched the entire game with her father. They talked to each other. They ate nachos. Not once did either rely on anything electronic for communication. Being an outspoken opponent of texting disease, I was so happy. I wanted to say to them, "You two are great! You still talk to each other and have fun." I didn't for fear they would think I was a little weird. . .Two days pass and I am talking to Todd Sorensen, an FMHS history teacher, about something technological, and I mention this nice encounter to him. He says, "She was probably grounded from her phone." The idealist in me shouted, "No," but the cynic wondered if Todd could be right.

We were coming home from Schenectady yesterday, and, in Madison County, hit a terrible sleet storm. It was awful, truly hellacious, which made me ponder the ecological question , "Is there climate change in hell?" I have no answer, but my favorite poet Robert Frost, hinted around the possibility in his wonderful verse "Fire and Ice."

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
--Robert Frost

Love the way the man could get you thinking with so few syllables.