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  • Olive Persimmon

Remembering Faigy Mayer

I prefer to grieve alone. On balconies on the 27th floor or in the middle of empty parking lots. In stairwells and forgotten corners of parks.

Places where I don't have to rationalize and won't make other people feel uncomfortable with my grief. Places where I can say, "Why?" over and over again even though I both know and don't know the answer.

Places where I felt helpless and buried by my own guilt. Guilt because my life is great and hers wasn't. Guilt that my sadness and mental health usually stabilize when hers didn't. Guilt that sometimes I didn't feel sad enough.

I'm emotional and tired. I want to do this right but I don't how or what that looks like. Forgive me if I bumble through it.

It's been a year since the death of my friend, Faigy Mayer. I wanted to write something for two reasons.

1. Writing is selfishly how I process my own emotions.

2. I want people to remember Faigy.

The act of preserving someone's memory is a huge responsibility, one that I know I'm not undertaking alone. I know this because Faigy's other friends have already organized a memorial service. I know this because I was at the funeral and I experienced her family's grief. The kind of grief that lives inside of you and makes you incapable of forgetting.

But I want to honor Faigy too, in the best way I'm personally capable of. So Faigy, I hope I don't let you down here.

These are the things I want to remember about Faigy:

When Faigy was healthy, she was inexhaustibly fascinated by life. Faigy came from a different world, one the that was totally different from my own. She was deeply interested in everything. People. Things. Technology. The Dynamic of "How to." How to build a great app. How to deliver a perfect speech. How to fall in love. She zealously studied our world.

When Faigy was healthy, and I keep saying that because there were times when she wasn't healthy, both mentally and physically. That needs to be acknowledged because during those times, she wasn't Faigy. Not really. If you met Faigy then, you'd have a totally different perspective. You'd focus on her imperfections caused by a combination of brain chemistry and circumstance.

But If you met her during one of the healthier periods, then you'd know how delightful, witty, and smart she could be. You'd know how wonderfully eccentric she was and how badly she wanted to be ok. You'd remember her Toastmasters' speeches and great one-liners, the way she could become friends with anyone. You'd fondly reminisce on the times she said things that were totally inappropriate but somehow got away with it. But also the times when she said "I can't understand why anyone would break up with you, You're amazing!" and ,"You're so talented, you're gonna be famous!" You'd be grateful for these sincere compliments. You'd be grateful for the walks in the park, the picnics, and the work sessions that were totally out of her way.

And you'd remember how absolutely scary and heartbreaking it was when she wasn't healthy. You'd remember how her mind occasionally played tricks and in those moments, as a bystander and friend, how helpless you felt. How you'd bring her the cheesecake she wanted even though you knew she wasn't going to eat it.

When she was healthy, she had this incredible ability to make you feel important. It's a deep human need to feel important and it's a gift for anyone who has that ability. Faigy was one of those people. She'd make you feel like the most interesting person in the room. The best app designer. The greatest advice-giver. The last time I saw Faigy was on my birthday last year. One of our mutual friends, Mei, was in from out-of-town.

Immediately after wishing me a happy birthday, Faigy said, "OH MY GOD!! Did you see who is here?? MEI!!! I can't believe she's here!"

That's what I mean. I bet in that moment, Mei felt great. I bet Mei felt like everyone was excited she was there and that her presence meant something. It did. We were excited that she was there, but no one was more excited than Faigy.

Over the past year, I've witnessed various reactions to Faigy's death. I watched the media blatantly quote false facts. Literally, make up things about who she was. I watched the Hasidic and more secular Jewish Communities respond. Both in ways that made me feel compassionate and angry. I went to a memorial service overflowing with people who shared stories and memories about Faigy. I met members of her Footsteps family, her Toastmasters family, her Hackathon family, her "random people she met on the street" family. Through all of this, I am reminded that Faigy Mayer was a complex person.

And that's ok. A lot of the most wonderful and interesting people I know are also complex.

Faigy Mayer was also deeply loved, by a lot of people. Including myself.

Faigy's death was a catalyst for new conversations. I'm not a member of the Hasidic community, so I can't say for sure, but I want to believe that Faigy started a dialogue within the community and within her family. I think that's what Faigy wanted. I hope that dialogue continued after death of her sister, Sarah. I have to believe that it did.

There's no easy or good way to end this article. There's no sort of deep wisdom or lesson to impart. So I just want to say this:

Faigy Mayer, thank you for being my friend.

I hope your next life is a little less complex.

Love always,

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