This is why I choose to add a French Flag Filter to my Profile Picture on Facebook

Customize_your_profile_picture_on_facebook

In the aftermath of Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, Facebook quickly offered the ability to add a filter covering your profile photo in a layer of the colors of the French Republic flag.

After thinking through, this is why I chose to do it:
there is a time of shock after events that you feel are touching you directly in who you are. After a death comes grief, but it comes with several stages, that need to be passed through before you can transform them into something constructive. I decided that until I had passed those stages, I would signal my state of grief by filtering my face behind a veil that represents a part of who I am, and that will signal myself as a mourner, or a person in mourning for those particular events. I will remove the veil when I feel ready to go back to the world… this is called bereavement, and nothing else.

Now, if it presents a vision of the world to anyone who would tell me it is limiting to a shocking reality excluding other valuable causes, I would reply that the world wide web is very vast, vaster than the sea of filtered faces you can see in Facebook’s timeline. If you see only filtered profiles, it may mean that your choice of friends is not diverse enough, that is all. This goes both ways.

 

I had also had to explain something that seemed obvious, but is always necessary to restate clearly:

Since we are all guilty of doing it, and I will always include myself in these faulty behaviors or speeches, I want to say that immediately after hearing of a terrible news, other than pronouncing conventional sentences, we may want to jump to very insensitive comments, that are spoken from a place of raw emotion.

I will not comment on top of these comments that social media have facilitated now. I will put myself in the place where I am: in shock and disbelief, in sadness and profound distress.

I know that whatever I will say or think is painted with where I come from and what my own experiences are. We are all part of what is going on and in need of trying to make sense in order to be able to move from the place of raw emotion that is too painful to bear otherwise.

My plea to everyone is to do what you feel comfortable the most with, whether it takes root in your belief system or political views, but also bear in mind that the noise we make has an impact, the words we say have an impact, the images we share have an impact. Let us all think before we react. Let us pause the time we are sure what we can do is going to be useful to someone else as well as to oneself.

And if too much thinking and pausing is making us look dumb or bizarrely shy or uninteresting, let us be thankful for being a worker of peace, a keeper of time.

Thank you for all your messages of love. Paris is where I was born and where I lived all my life until I moved permanently to the States at 40 years old, too old to become anything else than a foreigner in a foreign country, an adopter of a new land. The motherland remains strong. I do not want to hear any disparaging comment about the politics of the French. They are my countrymen and my allegiance will always be to the world of strong values that made me who I am. Paris will always be my hometown where every nook and stone I have walked and had adventures that those who are currently walking may feel and love or fear.

Let us be kind to each other and let us try to be patient when Time has been suddenly put in a motion that is scary.

My Mother

The text below was shared during shivah with the visitors who came to comfort me.

My Mother

She was born May 9, 1927 in Algiers
She died in the morning of August 21 in her bed in Paris.
In between those two dates, she had run the course of a luminous life. On that last morning, she woke up, said she did not want to take her breakfast nor her medication and simply wanted to go back to sleep. Then the heart that had beaten with passion and love for all those years simply stopped.

Colette was the type of sunshine that warms you all the time. She was constantly active and had only started slowing down and losing some of her enthusiasm for life after her beloved husband died April 8, 2014. They had been married for sixty years and my father Francis was her only love. While he was still alive, he was the one keeping her on her toes intellectually. Otherwise nothing could stop her in her busy tracks, always bustling with errands, planning of all sorts, redesigning, shlepping furniture in between rooms or between her houses – the country cottage and the Parisian apartment – or constantly relandscaping  her garden. Her joy in life was to feed everyone and she would cater the most refined and original tables with a taste for always new recipes. She would jump at any opportunity to throw a festive meal and she would even invent some bizarre celebrations just to have a chance to set a full table of guests to rejoice.

Besides her amazing table, she will be remembered for her gardens. Hers were set in the country of Monet, the impressionist painter, and could definitely sustain the comparison with the best of his paintings. She was constantly perfecting it. Hands in the soil, or hands in the dough, my mother was always busy, and you could find her either in the kitchen, or in the garden, day and… night. She was happy to infuse plants and flowers with her enthusiasm. If they happened to suffer from the inclement weather and die, it was a pure catastrophe, and she would display genuine and utter sorrow over their demise for days.

Colette could not understand evil. There was nothing mean that she not see the good in. She adored people, her family, of course, her brothers, her friends, her cousins, her nieces and nephew, and each and every child born to all of them. She knew each and every birth date – and we are talking of a time when there was no facebook to remind you of sending a happy birthday greeting (and she would never approach anything technological anyways).

She loved making lists, wrote hand written letters that looked like heavily edited first drafts and would never clean them up because of her enthusiasm that would not allow her to stop long enough or regret anything that she had written. She always wanted to proceed with the next thing to be done, not delve on mistakes or shortcomings.

My mom adored that she be loved and everyone always got charmed by her, and rightfully would start loving her. She never wanted to bother anyone. She was a free spirit. She loved literature, had an absolute passion for the English language – which goes back to another long story that I will tell bli neder another time.

She loved making presents and would always give more than what you actually needed. She would send me care packages as if I was living in a war zone, and sometimes those packages were pretty explosive themselves. When I would scold her for overdoing it, she would cry and make me feel awful and guilty. Then it would inevitably end up in hysterical laughters from both of us, and the mishaps would become part of our family lore for ever.

Colette was who everyone dreamt of having for a mom and she actually would allow all who wanted to, to adopt her as such.

She thus became the mother of many, so many that I can’t count. She also became the grandmother of even more, including the children of my brother’s wife who came to France when they were 9 and 11 from Brazil. Family myths have it that she taught them how to speak French in less than three weeks.

To end this for tonight I would like to tell of the very special bond she had with Joseph. I believe the bond is made of their shared traits: their unadultered passion and enthusiasm without any filter, their total inability to think evil, their complete independence, their preference for doing things on their own and their utmost desire to then have the others partake in their joy and marvel at the results of what they do all day long.

Neither of them liked cuddling very much, but they were always ready to cuddle each other. When I told Joseph that his Grannie had died, he looked up and said: “sad“…

Grannie and Joseph cuddling

When social media fails you

When social media fails you

I just went through the biggest shame with my use of my social networks.
I am being careful, especially on Facebook, to have groups, so that I can easily see updates from close friends instead of just being negligentely browsing updates that pop in my stream – I am not using Facebook so that it gives me all social media broadcasts that I can see on Twitter for instance… but many of my friends chose to broadcast – probably automatically – to all their networks, and I confess, I get distracted from that primary intention.

A friend and neighbor in my town, whose sister had suddenly been sick with brain cancer last March was using her Facebook status to update on her sister’s condition and fight against the tumor. There were weeks without updates sometimes. And more recently, some alarming updates, not spelling out a dreaded outcome, but clear enough for me to pay more attention, and try to keep my prayers and thoughts as active as possible.

Not active enough were my thoughts of checking the updates daily. I checked on Wednesday for the last time, and then never caught the passing stream with my friend’s appearing in, while I would stroll in the flood. And Thursday morning, she posted that her sister had passed. I was available to go to services, I was available to go to the funeral and to the cemetary. I just didn’t see the announcement. Until today when I caught a recent update with a picture that immediately alerted me to what I had missed.

Of course I feel guilty. Guilty of what we all do on our shiny walls and love for the excitement of social networks. We have many friends, but do we hear when they tell us something that we need to hear? I will not tell my friend that I feel guilty, because I feel mostly sad that I failed showing up, even for a brief farewell and extending my condolences, in a different way than a comment below a picture, a letter in the mailbox and a basket of fruit – I am not even sure they are at their home or at their siblings’ and because of my own guilt calling on the phone won’t do me any good, because it is not about me, it is about their bereavement, and they have other things to care about than the guilt of a lame friend on facebook.

This will serve me as a lesson. A lesson in my usage of social network, which I pride myself in being using properly enough to teach others how to do so.

Remember why you friend someone on facebook. And if you are among those that make a lot of noise too.

Clara Paschalina Recchia - April 14, 1963 - July 28, 2011