Learning About Life While Experiencing Death

This article was originally published in The Times of Israel.

Seth Galena with his daughter Ayelet in the hospital. (Courtesy of Seth Galena)

Seth Galena with his daughter Ayelet in the hospital. (Courtesy of Seth Galena)

In the week since 8-year-old Samuel Sommer died from leukemia, there have been some 60 blog posts and mainstream media articles written about him.

There has been an outpouring of grief from all corners of the globe. “They told of their tears in Croatia, remembered Sam with origami cranes in Japan and showed solidarity in Israel,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Most of the people who wrote about Sam did not know him personally. Neither did many of the more than 1,000 people who attended his funeral on December 16. To them, he was “Superman Sam,” the subject of a blog written eloquently and with painful honesty by his mother, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. On the blog, she has chronicled her family’s journey from Sam’s diagnosis until his death and beyond, as she continues making entries about coping with the loss of her son.

Most recently, she wrote of how “very, very hard” it was for her family to attend Shabbat services at their synagogue only a few days after burying Sam. “I felt uncomfortable, displaced, and out of sorts…like I no longer belong in my own skin.”

While the “Superman Sam” blog has reached an extraordinarily large audience, it is by far not the only blog written by parents with a sick child. Since 1997, families have been sharing information about a loved one’s “health event” on websites generated on the Caring Bridge social network. Others have taken to popular blogging sites like WordPress, Blogspot, and Tumblr to post updates. Subsequent sharing of links to these blog entries on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter has served to amplify the messages going out, leading many to contemplate the pros and cons of this broad exposure.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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