I spent the holiday weekend in Palm Beach with my friend Danielle and returned to New York with a broken suitcase zipper and a whole lot of ambivalence. I thought if I waited a couple days, I might be able to unpack all the feelings and tidily reassemble them into a few pithy sentences that held some meaning, but I was wrong. I can explain it all, but not succinctly.
I still feel like I should not have had the privilege to be in attendance at Jessica Fekete’s life celebration for her husband Thomas; as a relative stranger, witnessing the deep, lovely grief of those closest to him, felt invasive. I am grateful for having been allowed there, though in ways, it felt wrong of me to take advantage of that privilege. Most of the time I was there, I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong. It made me truly appreciate that many who spoke observed that Thomas touched the lives of people he barely knew, or didn’t know at all, and that these people are part of his legacy – I am one of them.
Social media has made celebrity a more complex thing than Andy Warhol could ever have imagined. It allows us to craft personal relationships with public figures with great ease, and what’s more, it makes it acceptable and legitimate to do so. It’s how Thomas shared his journey with the world, and though I met him a number of times in person, it’s his social media presence that most deeply moved me. As I said before, obviously you get a limited view of a person’s life when you view it only through social media, but that doesn’t make Thomas’s any less beautiful.
I guess it should be enough for me to simply say, RIP Thomas and thank you Jessica, and in ways, it feels narcissistic to say more – but it also felt wrong not to acknowledge that I am thankful, and why. It’s a testament to Thomas’s wife and family’s love that they were so generous as to open the celebration of his life to the public, and even amidst my ambivalence towards my being there, I know am so very glad and grateful that I was.