So I'm on Facebook, which is fun and highly addictive. I think I have twice as many Facebook friends as real-life friends, but it's proven to be an easy and effective way to reconnect with old classmates, colleagues, friends, and relatives.
If you're not Facebook-knowledgeable, all you need to know to get the point of this post is that in addition to people you can befriend, there are groups you can join, causes you can support, and sheep you can throw (the last one is true but irrelevant).
So if you've read my blog before, you'll know that my mother died of a neurological disorder called Lewy Body Dementia or Lewy Body Disease (conveniently LBD either way). One day, my younger sister, who also is on Facebook, came upon an LBD cause page, joined it, and alerted me to it. I also joined, and I posted my Dove Nested Towers blog post to the LBD cause page's "wall" (a posting forum).
Some time later, I received the following message in my Facebook inbox:
Dear Mr. Rubin,
Pardon this message from a complete stranger, but I was reviewing the Lewy Body causes page and read your incredibly powerful and beautiful passage about your mom. So much of your entry was applicable to our situation. And your writing is beautiful. My mother died of LBD three days before my wedding (2006). And we as a family also had to make the same sad sad choice you did guiding her toward the end of her journey with LBD. We found a wonderful hospice home in Philadelphia for those last grueling 8 days.
Anyway, thank you for your words, and I just had to tell you how much they touched me. I'm so sorry for your loss as well.
I replied with humble gratitude and then invited her to be my Facebook friend. In so doing, I was able to access her page and I learned that she is a professional opera singer, a soprano. On her website, I further learned that she will be appearing in Boston (where I live) in March, performing Mahler's Symphony No. 2. This prompted a note from me to her:
Seeing your page now, I realize you're a professional opera singer. I come from a family of opera buffs, from my grandfather who performed in local operas, was a freelance bass-baritone in temple choirs throughout Boston, and had his own radio show at one point. Googling your website, I see you're performing here in Boston in March, doing Mahler. My mother's maiden name was Mahler, and her family came from Austria. She always thought she was related to Gustav, though she had no genealogical proof. And my singing grandfather was paternal, so no musical talent was apparent on my mother's side. Still, we like to carry on the idea that there may be a familial connection, so it's a nice coincidence that you connect with my mother on this other level, as well. I will keep an eye out for the performance; it would be fun to hear you in it.
A further coincidence is that the conductor for the March concert will be Benjamin Zander. I once interviewed him for a freelance article I wrote that was also printed in the CD booklet for a recording made of his New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic Orchestra's tour of Chile and Buenos Aires in 1995. You can see it here.
Thus, a nice correspondence was begun with this woman, who is based in New York. She offered to try to get me tickets to the performance and we did a little Jewish Geography to see if we know any of the same people. In the meantime, I searched Facebook for any Lewy Body hits and found that the UK-based Lewy Body Society had a page. I joined it, and again posted my blog piece about my mother.
Now Ilana, being my Facebook friend, can see any update I make to my Facebook account, including any new groups or pages I join. So she saw that I joined the Lewy Body Society page and she did likewise. Some time later, I got the following message from her:
So the Lewy Body Society (the one we joined here on facebook) and I have been in touch. We are working on the possibility of me doing a benefit recital / concert for LBD. We are trying to consider venue or country (!) as they are based in the UK.
In just my preliminary thinking: All is need is a pianist of my choice and to pick a beautiful program ... But we will need to think about other details (location, as I said is one of them)
Might you be willing to be my sounding board ? Or feel like getting involved to work with me on this possibility?
I replied enthusiastically thusly:
I'm honored to be asked and would be thrilled to help out in any way. I don't know if you sussed it out from my info, but I'm a marketing copywriter, so in terms of strategy, theme, proposals, copy, etc., that's all up my alley. As far as pure event/program brainstorming, absolutely, count me in.
BTW, I know you're in NYC somewhere; we'll be visiting with my brother in law and his family in Chelsea from 12/26-30. Maybe we could discuss this over bagels?
Thanks again for offering me a seat at the table.
To which she replied:
I actually just kind of presumed that it might be up your alley. And had a gut feeling too - and hoped even more that you might be up for helping.
And as it happens I'm very comfortable on the musical end of things and the other stuff kind of paralyzes me in event-programming-strategy-proposal fear... Perhaps it's all fate somehow. I'm really excited about this now.
I definitely should be here in NY when you guys come this way! When it suits the family schedule, I would be so happy to come down.
This concert (s) is so important for me. I want so much to contribute to their memories and to LBD. I couldn't do this alone ~ so glad you're at the table.
And so, in a few days, if all goes well, I will get to meet this soprano in person and hopefully create an event - and cement a friendship - that will have lasting impact. Certainly, there are weird things you hear about when people take social network relationships and take them offline, but this is something very positive and worthwhile...not least because it's gotten me to play more Mahler!
Mom would be thrilled.