Amber Staska Discusses Distracted Driving in Seventeen Magazine

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

In the September issue of Seventeen magazine, Casey’s friend Amber Staska was featured on p. 221, discussing her mission to stop distracted driving. The article reads:

“Amber, 22, lost her best friend, Casey, when she was killed in a crosswalk by a driver who glanced away from the road. That day, Amber vowed that no one else would ever die from something so preventable. So last spring, Amber and her honors fraternity organized a local benefit concert. To promote it, they stood at an intersection on campus where two other girls had been hit, and waved signs that said, “Honk for Safe Driving.” They sold T-shirts to help raise $2,600 for charities like The Partnership for Safe Driving, which educates people about all kinds of dangerous driving. To spread the word or organize your own event, go to caseyfeldmannetwork.org

To read more about the benefit concert and pedestrian safety campaign, go here.

Casey Feldman Awarded an Honory Cappie; SHS Laramie Project Cast Wins Awards at the Cappies

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The Casey poster on display in the showcase at the 2010 Cappies Gala

Casey was awarded an honorary Cappie for her dedication to theater and journalism at the Greater Philadelphia Cappies Gala on May 23, 2010. Additionally, SHS, which dedicated their theater season to Casey, won three Cappies in conjunction with their performance of The Laramie Project.

 In 2005, The Greater Philadelphia chapter was established and Casey became the first lead critic from Springfield High School. Casey acted in 6 theatrical productions during her high school years and was nominated for a Cappie herself at the 2006 Gala. Casey played Gwendolyn Pidgeon in the Odd Couple and accepted the 2006 Cappie on behalf of the entire SHS cast that year for Best Play.

 In addition to dedicating their entire theater season to Casey this past year, Springfield High School held a special “pink performance” of The Laramie Project in November, 2009 as a special tribute to Casey.  A plaque in memory of Casey was dedicated prior to the performance and was hung in the SHS Knorr Theater. The Laramie Project was Casey’s first high school theatrical production in 2004.

  Coincidentally (or not?), at this year’s Cappies Gala, the SHS 2009 Laramie Project cast won the Cappie for Best Play! In addition, cast members Bridget Yingling won Best Supporting Actress in a Play and Sean Skahill, Best Supporting Actor in a Play! These awards came despite 35 area high schools participating, including direct competition from West Chester, which also performed The Laramie Project.

The SHS Laramie Project cast at the Cappies. Photo editing courtesy of the students.

At this year’s Gala, the Springfield High School men who performed in The Laramie Project wore pink vests and ties with their tuxedos in honor of Casey. Each of the SHS three acceptance “speeches” for a Cappie award included a thank you to both Casey and Mathew Shepard (about whom The Laramie Project was written).

 No doubt, both Casey and Matthew were with the SHS Laramie Project cast during their performances in the Knorr Theater  this past year and at the 2010 Cappies Gala. Most assuredly, Casey was beaming with pride as SHS accepted their awards and was humbled as her parents accepted the Cappie on her behalf.

Click on the video above to view the Cappie presentation to Casey.

Note:  The Cappies (Critics and Awards Program) was founded in Washington, D.C. eleven years ago, and is active in 18 cities across the U.S. and Canada today. It recognizes the accomplishments of high school thespians and the talents of high school journalists. Journalism and theater students review plays and musicals performed at high schools other than their own and submit their edited reviews for publication in local newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer. During this process, the students vote for the performances deserving of special recognition. The entire year of performing and reviewing culminates in the Cappies Gala.

[View more photos from the 2010 Cappies Gala this year. Read the newspaper articles about the  2010 Cappies collected on the Casey Feldman Memories website.  View photos from Casey’s high school performances and the 2006 Cappies. View photos and videos from the “Pink Performance”  of The Larmamie Project in 2009 and the plaque dedication to Casey. Read the News of Delaware County article, “SHS Theater Family Remembers Beloved Actress” on  the Foundation News and Updates blog.]

Sea Isle City Dedicates Pink Remembrance Tree to Casey Feldman on May 1, 2010

Friday, May 14th, 2010

The Sea Isle City tree at dusk

The City of Sea Isle, along with the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance (SJTSA), dedicated a “Pink Remembrance Tree” to Casey Feldman as part of Sea Isle City’s Community Day, Saturday, May 1st at Noon in front of the police department on JFK Boulevard. Adorned with some 1400 pink lights, the tree is visible upon entering the island from the bridge and will be lit every night from dusk till 5:00 a.m. A plaque at the base of the tree is inscribed with Casey name and dates and serves as a memorial to all who have lost their lives in traffic accidents.

Mayor Len Desiderio said, “Mr. and. Mrs. Feldman have worked very hard to raise awareness to pedestrian safety and it is my privilege to honor the memory of their daughter in the hopes of keeping the residents and visitors of Sea Isle safe.” Speaking on behalf of the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance, Program Manager Teresa Thomas announced their summer safety campaign, stating that Casey’s story and photograph would play a prominent role in pedestrian and traffic safety in the region. “We are adding a human element which we hope reaches people enough that they start to drive more safely.”

The pink tree dedication in Sea Isle City also served as the kickoff for a nationwide effort to decorate trees with pink lights to stand as a memorial to those whose lives have been lost to traffic accidents and as a symbol of traffic safety.

Left to right: Dianne Anderson, Cape May Sheriff Gary Schaffer, Sea Isle Mayor and Cape May County Freeholder Len Desiderio, Joel Feldman, Cape May County Freeholder Ralph Sheets and Sea Isle Police Chief Tom Dintino

Also speaking at the ceremony were Sea Isle City Chief of Police Thomas D’Intino and Dianne Anderson, Casey’s mother.

Dianne Anderson took the opportunity to express her and Casey’s father Joel Feldman’s appreciation for the dedication of the tree in Sea Isle, stating that Sea Isle City was Casey’s home away home. Casey loved the shore and Sea Isle City in particular, where the family has owned a home for over 17 years. Casey was living in Sea Isle during the summer of 2009 and was struck in a crosswalk at an Ocean City intersection on July 17th. Casey wrote about the summer and Sea Isle City in high school essays and her mother took the opportunity to share Casey’s feelings in Casey’s own words by reading excerpts from one of those essays written when Casey was 16 years old:

Summer. Just saying the word, hits me with a barrage of senses. I can almost taste the word, like a half-melted cherry Popsicle on the 4th of July. Or hear it, the sound of the rushing ocean, the seagulls cawing, and crickets chirping, their call audible through the open window, their sound mixing with the whirring of the fan late one hot August night….

Ever since I can remember, we have had a shore house. I can’t remember a 4th of July that hasn’t taken place on the deck of our beach-front shore house in Sea Isle City, New Jersey….

As soon as my last final exam is finished on that thrilling day in mid- June, I’m already packing my bags for “the shore,” and, for the majority of the summer, I’ll call Sea Isle home….

Every day at the shore is special, and every second is a moment in time that I’ll commit to memory and forever cherish…. Summer has a sort of timeless quality, and even though the profound aspects of your life change, it almost seems like, in the summer, time stands still, and all the summer days of my memory merge into one….

Most people share this belief that summer is sort of the time to make memories. When middle-aged adults and parents reminisce about their youth, getting starry-eyed and talking about “the good ol’ days”, often you hear stories of wild nights at summer camp, crazy debacles at the beach, and summer romances…

I can picture myself, even though it makes me cringe to do so, in my forties. Although I have virtually no idea what direction my life will have taken, I know one thing: when life becomes more stressful than fun, and when I have more obligations than vacations, maybe I, too, will daydream about the “good ol’ days;” and those unforgettable summer nights at the beach.

 

Casey's parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in front of the pink tree following the ceremony

[Note: View more photos from this tree dedication ceremony.  See ThinkSafetyCampaign.org and SJTSA.org for more information on the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance’s summer safety campaign featuring Casey. Visit PinkRemembranceTree.org to post and view memorials of Casey and others who died in traffic accidents.]

SEA ISLE CITY TO DEDICATE A PINK REMEMBRANCE TREE FOR CASEY SATURDAY, MAY 1

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Press Release Issued by the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance:

The City of Sea Isle, along with the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance, will dedicate a Pink Remembrance Tree for Casey Feldman as part of Sea Isle City’s Community Day, Saturday, May 1 at Noon in front of the police department on JFK Boulevard. 

Mayor Len Desiderio said “Mr. and. Mrs. Feldman have worked very hard to raise awareness to pedestrian safety and it is my privilege to honor the memory of their daughter in the hopes of keeping the residents and visitors of Sea Isle safe.”

Casey Feldman was struck and killed by a motorist while crossing a street in a crosswalk in Ocean City on July 17, 2009 while on her way to a waitressing job on the boardwalk.  Casey was a senior at Fordham University majoring in communication and media studies and was living in Sea Isle City for the summer where the Feldman family has had a home for the past 17 years.  For the holidays, the family decorated a 300 year old sycamore tree on their Springfield, Pennsylvania property with 18,000 pink lights as a tribute to Casey.  The tree has gotten much attention and provided the family with such comfort, that they have decided to also promote it as a traffic safety tree.

Dianne Anderson, Casey’s mother, said, “Pink was Casey’s favorite color and the lights represent her sparkling personality.  While I originally just envisioned it for the holidays, it has remained lit and I now can’t imagine coming home and not seeing it.”  Anderson went on to say, “Casey loved Sea Isle City; it was one of her favorite places. She even wrote about it in many high school essays. That is why it means so much to me that Sea Isle is going to dedicate a tree in her memory.”

While in memory of Casey Feldman, “The Pink Remembrance Tree” in Sea Isle City is also being dedicated to all of those who have lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions.  The Feldman’s are creating a website with the same name and hope to start a movement of Pink Remembrance Trees nationwide.  As part of the website, the public can upload photographs of their tree and their loved one, as well as include any information about their loved one that they may wish to share.

The Pink Remembrance Tree dedicated to Casey on the Feldman Property

Joel Feldman said “Our hope is that people will see the trees and slow down, or get off the phone or buckle up. There are just too many people dying on our roadways and it is not acceptable because they are preventable.”

Joel Feldman met with legislators and highway traffic officials over the past year in an attempt to promote changes in New Jersey’s pedestrian safety law.The new law, which went into effective April 1, 2010, now requires motorists to STOP and remain stopped for pedestrians, as opposed to simply yielding to them. The South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance will use Casey as part of their summer safety campaign called THINK SAFETY.  Businesses, schools, municipalities and police departments are asked to participate by displaying the posters and banners throughout their community.  Forms are available at sjtsa.org.

To view photos or television news clips of the Feldmans pink tree, read Casey’s writings about Sea Isle City, or for more information about Casey or the foundation which has been established in her memory, visit caseyfeldman.com.

The pinkremembrancetree.com website will be up and running by May 1.

Note: Read the articles in The Press of Atlantic City and Cape May County Herald.

CU Airs TV News Clip “Casey Feldman Inspiration”; Feldmans Meet Scholarship Recipients

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Danielle Sandoval, Dianne Anderson, Ricky Bell, Amy Aberra,Tsion Zergaw and Joel Feldman (rear)

L to R: Danielle Sandoval, Dianne Anderson, Ricky Bell, Amy Aberra,Tsion Zergaw and Joel Feldman (rear)

The Feldmans combined a trip to the University of Colorado to visit Brett with a meeting with students from the Volunteer Resource Center and this year’s scholarship recipients for the Alternative Spring Break program. While there, the Feldman’s were filmed by CU student, Kylie Bearse for a news story about the Foundation’s establishment of scholarships for the Alternative Spring Break program. The two minute news clip, titled, “Casey Feldman Inspiration” , aired on CU’s television station on April 19, 2010 and is available to watch on You Tube.

The scholarship recipients in attendance at dinner,  Danielle Sandoval  (Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless), Ricky Bell (Catalina Island, CA), Amy Aberra (New Orleans Disaster Relief)  and Tsion Zergaw (NYC God’s Love We Deliver) discussed their trips and the impact that it had on their lives and the lives of those they were serving.  Check back for future stories on the students’ experiences spending their spring break helping others.

Kylie Bearse, CU Volunteer Resource Center student and Broadcast Journalism major, filmed "Casey Feldman Inspriration"

Simple acts ease great pain, by Joel D. Feldman

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Posted on Mon, Apr. 5, 2010, The Philadelphia Inquirer – Opinion                           

Joel and Casey - Dec. 25, 2008

Simple acts ease great pain 

By Joel D. Feldman 

My lovely 21-year-old daughter, Casey, died about eight months ago on a beautiful summer day in Ocean City, N.J. She was struck by a car in a crosswalk while on her way to a boardwalk restaurant where she worked. How she died and, more important, lived her short life was reported in various newspapers. 

Casey’s death is the most difficult thing I have faced, and going on without her is the most difficult thing I will face. 

But in the immediate aftermath, I would not have expected to be doing as well as I am now. My progress has been possible because of supportive family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. 

But I have found that many people, however well-intentioned, simply don’t know what to say or do to comfort the grieving. Awkwardness, anxiety, and ignorance surround death and mourning. So although grief is different for everyone, I offer my thoughts on what has and hasn’t helped me. 

“How are you doing?” So many people asked me this question and then quickly tried to retract it, saying something like, “How stupid of me to ask! I know you must be suffering terribly.” 

Even before Casey’s death, I was ambivalent about this expression, which often doesn’t indicate real interest in another’s condition. It’s better to ask someone who is grieving, “How are you doing today?” That communicates a genuine desire to know how someone is doing at the moment. A person can answer as fully or briefly as he wants, comforted by the knowledge that someone is willing to listen. 

“What can I say?” You can’t really lessen my grief, certainly not with a phrase. You can comfort, but not cure. Just be present. “I was thinking of you and your family” is the kind of sentiment that helps. 

“I know how you feel.” Please don’t ever say this. Many of us have lost loved ones, and some have even lost a child, but your loss doesn’t tell you how I feel about mine. (Presumably you are not as clueless as the person who told me she knew how I felt because she had recently lost her 18-year-old cat.) 

Listen; don’t feel compelled to talk. Casey was an award-winning reporter and editor at her college newspaper, and one of her colleagues told me Casey had taught her that everyone has a story – that one just has to listen. That is perfect advice for anyone trying to comfort someone in mourning. All I want is to be listened to – to feel you are trying to learn what it’s like to stand in my shoes and are there when I need to talk. 

“I didn’t want to remind you.” Many people said they were afraid to talk to me about Casey for fear of reminding me of her. But I think of Casey almost all the time, regardless of what others say to me. 

I am afraid people will forget Casey. I’ll always appreciate it when people speak of and remember her. 

Don’t judge my grieving. I struggled, and still do, with whether I am grieving enough for Casey. I know my grief is not a measure of my love, but when I would laugh or find pleasure in something, I would often chide myself for being happy too soon. 

As I returned to normal activities, people would say things like, “I don’t know how you are going about your life as you are. I would never get out of bed.” This was probably intended as a compliment, but it made me question whether I was grieving enough. No one can know what I’m going through, so no one should try to characterize or judge my progress. 

“I didn’t want to intrude on your grief.” I often heard this from friends trying to explain why they didn’t reach out to me sooner. But whether they did nothing because they didn’t want to intrude, didn’t know how to offer comfort, or just didn’t care, they still did nothing. I had no way of knowing the difference. 

There was not a single person who reached out to me whom I saw as intruding. Surviving a tragic loss is a struggle. I feel different as a result of my loss; don’t compound that by making me feel isolated. Do something, lest your inaction be construed as insensitivity. 

When is it too late to send a card? The answer for me is never. The bulk of the support I received came in the first month after Casey died. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer cards, phone calls, and deliveries. 

Some studies show grief symptoms may actually worsen several months after a loved one’s death as a result of the gradual lessening of support over time. Put a reminder in your calendar to make a call, send an e-mail, or plan a lunch. It will be most appreciated. 

My expectations – that Casey would graduate from college, find a satisfying career, marry, have children, live a full life, and one day mourn my death – have been shattered. In struggling to put together the pieces, I have learned that a tragic death can paralyze kind and caring people. And I have been helped by those who, whether they were comfortable doing so or not, tried to offer support. 


Joel D. Feldman is a lawyer in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about Casey Feldman and what her family is doing in her memory, see www.caseyfeldman.com

[Note: Read  and follow Joel’s blog, “Recovering From A Tragic Loss” – http://tragicloss.blogspot.com/. Also, the photo of Joel and Casey above, was added for this copy of the article on the Foundation site and did not appear in the Philadelphia Inquirer.]

Remembering Casey Video

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Pushing the Limits: One Student Sprints Towards Success

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Kayleigh Taylor,  of  Fordham University was inspired by Casey to run the Vancouver marathon to raise funds for blood cancer research for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS).  Kayleigh met Casey in the summer of 2006 at college orientation. “…the sweet girl I had met three years prior… accomplished more in her 21 years than many people do in a lifetime….The dedication of … teammates and my memories of Casey have given me reason to rise out of bed early Saturday mornings for long runs and the courage to push myself to limits I never thought possible….’

Read Kayleigh’s article published in the Fordham Observer on March 3, 2010 below:

Kayleigh Taylor, FCLC ’10, is working towards her goal of $4000 as she prepares to run a marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Last week while the rest of the northeast enjoyed a beautiful snowfall, New York City endured hours of freezing rain. I decided to run to practice, hoping to make the commute less painful. I shoved my ear buds through the lining of my inside pocket, and tried to zone out Manhattan as I soared as quickly as possible through a cloud of frantic umbrellas. By the time I arrived, I was completely drenched. As soon as I stopped running, my body temperature plummeted and I realized just how cold it was. I ducked under Bethesda Terrace to wait for my team and wondered if anyone else would be crazy enough to show up. In retrospect, it was silly to have doubts, my team is just as hardcore and dedicated to this cause as I am.

What cause, your asking? I am training this winter with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training to run the Vancouver Marathon. Team in Training provides its participants with expert coaches and training clinics, and in return, each participant agrees to fundraise a certain minimum for blood cancer research. My minimum requirement is $3,900, but I am really hoping to break $4,000!

I made the commitment to the LLS after the death of Casey Feldman this summer. I wasn’t a close friend of Casey’s, but she happened to be the very first person I met at Fordham at our Summer Orientation in 2006. Casey and I were placed in the same small group, so we spent the day together: listening to the information session, playing icebreakers and going on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood (which we won!). I remember the day very clearly, the things we discussed and my first impressions of my peers. While we walked around the city scouting take-out menus and Trump Hotel pens, Casey and I talked about leaving our high school boyfriends, our potential new roommates and the things we would miss about our hometowns. I was deeply affected by Casey’s death and monitored, somewhat obsessively, the developments her parents and friends made on her Web site.

I was comforted to discover that the sweet girl I had met three years prior had accomplished more in her 21 years than many people do in a lifetime. But I was also frightened to realize that life is so fragile, and that at any moment dreams can be taken away from us.

In October, I discovered that Casey’s parents had created a networking Web site encouraging Casey’s friends, family and peers to give back to the community and live life more fully. I decided immediately that I wanted to take action. Running is one of my strongest passions, and for a few years I had been tempted by the Team in Training program. The fundraising requirement is intimidating, for lack of a better word, so I planned to postpone joining until after graduation. But after perusing Casey’s site that night, I knew that it couldn’t wait, and the next evening, I went to a Team in Training information session and signed up.

Since registration, I have been in contact with Casey’s parents and friends. The pink commemorative bracelet they gave me helps me remember everyday why I’m training and striving to help the community. I have shared Casey’s story with my teammates, and many have shared their own stories with me. Some are blood cancer survivors, while others run in honor of a friend or family member. The dedication of these teammates and my memories of Casey have given me reason to rise out of bed early Saturday mornings for long runs and the courage to push myself to limits I never thought possible.

Thus far, my training has gone very well. I’m almost ready to conquer the 26.2 miles! Likewise, my friends and family have been very generous and I have reached the 50 percent mark in my fundraising. But I still have a long way to go! On March 6, I will be hosting an open bar fundraiser from 10 p.m.to 1 a.m. at Cinema Brasserie (45th Street between 5th and Madison Avenues). Everyone is welcome to attend! The cost of the open bar will be $25 for three hours and we will also have some games and raffles.

There was a time, not long so long ago, when I thought completing a marathon was an unrealistic goal for me. I loved running, but I never thought I’d find the time or energy to devote myself to such a rigorous training schedule. After receiving inspiration to take on the challenge and experiencing such tremendous success, I realize that the most restricting limits in life are the ones we place on ourselves. Everyday is a new opportunity, and those who are willing to embrace both spontaneity and discipline will live a truly full and happy life. I have found that there is a certain unmatchable joy in testing limits and in taking on a goal that seems unattainable. I challenge you to do the same.

http://www.fordhamobserver.com/pushing-the-limits-one-student-sprints-towards-success-1.2177686

“Grief in the Age of Facebook” by Dr. Elizabeth Stone, The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 14, 2010)

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Dr. Elizabeth Stone, one of Casey’s professors and mentors at Fordham University, published the following article in The Chronicles of Higher Education, on March 14, 2010:

Grief in the Age of Facebook

By Elizabeth Stone

After the death of Casey Feldman (right), many of her friends changed their photographs of themselves on their Facebook profiles to a snapshot of them with Casey. Above, Kelsey Butler's Facebook photo, with Casey.

On July 17 last year, one of my most promising students died. Her name was Casey Feldman, and she was crossing a street in a New Jersey resort town on her way to work when a van went barreling through a stop sign. Her death was a terrible loss for everyone who knew her. Smart and dogged, whimsical and kind, Casey was the news editor of the The Observer, the campus paper I advise, and she was going places. She was a finalist for a national college reporting award and had just been chosen for a prestigious television internship for the fall, a fact she conveyed to me in a midnight text message, entirely consistent with her all-news-all-the-time mind-set. Two days later her life ended.

I found out about Casey’s death the old-fashioned way: in a phone conversation with Kelsey, the layout editor and Casey’s roommate. She’d left a neutral-sounding voice mail the night before, asking me to call when I got her message, adding, “It’s OK if it’s late.” I didn’t retrieve the message till midnight, so I called the next morning, realizing only later what an extraordinary effort she had made to keep her voice calm. But my students almost never make phone calls if they can help it, so Kelsey’s message alone should have raised my antenna. She blogs, she tweets, she texts, and she pings. But voice mail? No.

Paradoxically it was Kelsey’s understanding of the viral nature of her generation’s communication preferences that sent her rushing to the phone, and not just to call boomers like me. She didn’t want anyone to learn of Casey’s death through Facebook. It was summer, and their friends were scattered, but Kelsey knew that if even one of Casey’s 801 Facebook friends posted the news, it would immediately spread.

So as Kelsey and her roommates made calls through the night, they monitored Facebook. Within an hour of Casey’s death, the first mourner posted her respects on Casey’s Facebook wall, a post that any of Casey’s friends could have seen. By the next morning, Kelsey, in New Jersey, had reached The Observer’s editor in chief in Virginia, and by that evening, the two had reached fellow editors in California, Missouri, Massachusetts, Texas, and elsewhere—and somehow none of them already knew.

In the months that followed, I’ve seen how markedly technology has influenced the conventions of grieving among my students, offering them solace but also uncertainty. The day after Casey’s death, several editorial-board members changed their individual Facebook profile pictures. Where there had been photos of Brent, of Kelsey, of Kate, now there were photos of Casey and Brent, Casey and Kelsey, Casey and Kate.

Now that Casey was gone, she was virtually everywhere. I asked one of my students why she’d changed her profile photo. “It was spontaneous,” she said. “Once one person did it, we all joined in.” Another student, who had friends at Virginia Tech when, in 2007, a gunman killed 32 people, said that’s when she first saw the practice of posting Facebook profile photos of oneself with the person being mourned.

Within several days of Casey’s death, a Facebook group was created called “In Loving Memory of Casey Feldman,” which ran parallel to the wake and funeral planned by Casey’s family. Dozens wrote on that group’s wall, but Casey’s own wall was the more natural gathering place, where the comments were more colloquial and addressed to her: “casey im speechless for words right now,” wrote one friend. ” i cant believe that just yest i txted you and now your gone … i miss you soo much. rest in peace.”

Though we all live atomized lives, memorial services let us know the dead with more dimension than we may have known them during their lifetimes. In the responses of her friends, I was struck by how much I hadn’t known about Casey—her equestrian skill, her love of animals, her interest in photography, her acting talent, her penchant for creating her own slang (“Don’t be a cow”), and her curiosity—so intense that her friends affectionately called her a “stalker.”

This new, uncharted form of grieving raises new questions. Traditional mourning is governed by conventions. But in the age of Facebook, with selfhood publicly represented via comments and uploaded photos, was it OK for her friends to display joy or exuberance online? Some weren’t sure. Six weeks after Casey’s death, one student who had posted a shot of herself with Casey wondered aloud when it was all right to post a different photo. Was there a right time? There were no conventions to help her. And would she be judged if she removed her mourning photo before most others did?

As it turns out, Facebook has a “memorializing” policy in regard to the pages of those who have died. That policy came into being in 2005, when a good friend and co-worker of Max Kelly, a Facebook employee, was killed in a bicycle accident. As Kelly wrote in a Facebook blog post last October, “The question soon came up: What do we do about his Facebook profile? We had never really thought about this before in such a personal way. How do you deal with an interaction with someone who is no longer able to log on? When someone leaves us, they don’t leave our memories or our social network. To reflect that reality, we created the idea of ‘memorialized’ profiles as a place where people can save and share their memories of those who’ve passed.”

Casey’s Facebook page is now memorialized. Her own postings and lists of interests have been removed, and the page is visible only to her Facebook friends. (I thank Kelsey Butler for making it possible for me to gain access to it.) Eight months after her death, her friends are still posting on her wall, not to “share their memories” but to write to her, acknowledging her absence but maintaining their ties to her—exactly the stance that contemporary grief theorists recommend. To me, that seems preferable to Freud’s prescription, in “Mourning and Melancholia,” that we should detach from the dead. Quite a few of Casey’s friends wished her a merry Christmas, and on the 17th of every month so far, the postings spike. Some share dreams they’ve had about her, or post a detail of interest. “I had juice box wine recently,” wrote one. “I thought of you the whole time 🙁 Miss you girl!” From another: “i miss you. the new lady gaga cd came out, and if i had one wish in the world it would be that you could be singing (more like screaming) along with me in my passenger seat like old times.”

It was against the natural order for Casey to die at 21, and her death still reverberates among her roommates and fellow editors. I was privileged to know Casey, and though I knew her deeply in certain ways, I wonder—I’m not sure, but I wonder—if I should have known her better. I do know, however, that she would have done a terrific trend piece on “Grief in the Age of Facebook.”

Elizabeth Stone is a professor of English, communication, and media studies at Fordham University. She is the author of the memoir A Boy I Once Knew: What a Teacher Learned From Her Student (Algonquin, 2002).

http://chronicle.com/article/Grief-in-the-Age-of-Facebook/64345/#comments

Casey Tree on Local News

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The bright lights that lit up Springfield in pink have made their way to the local news! Three channels in the Philadelphia area covered “The Casey Tree” that was assembled at the Feldman home right before Christmas. Click here to view a compilation of the coverage.  NBC, ABC & FOX Philadelphia News – The Casey Tree

The Feldman family used some 19,000 pink lights to decorate their 300 year old sycamore tree in Casey's memory.