I really wanted to be posting about Simchat Torah and how excited I am for it (and I really am very excited) but I've found myself thinking all week about my old friend Ben, who was killed in Afganistan recently.
Ben and I were very good friends in High School; we met through youth group (specifically, NFTY's New England branch) and, like many good high school buddies, we drifted away after I graduated. I kept in touch distantly, through friends of friends, for a little while. And like many, we reconnected a year or two through Facebook.
I wasn't surprised to see that he had committed himself to a life's work of Tikkun Olam, or that he had joined the US Army. From the distance of the internets it seemed as if he had continued to be that person he was in High School: smart and funny, self-effacing and dedicated. It was a blow to discover he had been killed, doing what he had dedicated his life to fulfilling: making this world a better place, bringing water infrastructure to remote corners of the globe. It was heartbreaking to see old friends mourning his loss, and though our relationship was pretty remote at this point, I felt it. How could I not? Here was a peer, someone young, not even married, and now he's simply gone.
His loss doesn't affect me directly; I haven't talked with him (save perhaps an email or two) in well over 10 years. If it weren't for Facebook, the odds are that I wouldn't even know he had departed this world. But I do. I think of the house I visited and the family who took me in and how much pain is in that home. I think about his fiancee (who I've never met) and the empty house she has to come home to. I think about what his final moments were like. I think about his friends who are mourning him deeply and with a sadness that, as Ruth Brin wrote, takes them down to the darkest depths. I think about what Yizkor will be like for them this year, as they try to say Kaddish through tears and anger and make sense of something utterly senseless. Mostly, I miss my friend.