While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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Ashera Buhite: Ten Years Later (Part 11)

Jonah’s death ten years ago commenced a journey for many of us that has been filled with sadness (of course) but also with love — so much love. With this campaign, “10 Years Later,” you’re invited to spend some time with some of Jonah’s best friends and teachers.

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Meet Ashera Buhite.

Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, and bartender based in Buffalo, NY. You can check out more of her writing at QweenCity.com.

Ashera writes:

It all started with a picnic bench outside the lecture hall where we would gather. There were about ten of us by my count, although others would make appearances. We were known by a few monikers, mostly “the bench kids” or “the hippies.” We were a colorful band of miscreants. When we weren’t making trouble, we were making something beautiful, be it artwork on the bench or singing songs. The characters in question know who they are, so I feel no obligation to list them off. This isn’t about any of us singularly.

Freshman year of college is an intense time of discovery. Eighteen-year olds tend to think they have the world figured out, or at least we did. We debated our convictions with fury and passion (Mac was particularly good at that) and lived with reckless abandon, believing ourselves to be somewhat immortal. But then March 5th happened.

The reader can imagine the coming metaphor as a dream sequence if they wish, although I recall no such illusions. I know this not as a dream, but as a fact that sometime in the early morning of March 5th, I swallowed a large fishing hook so deeply it pierced me right through the solar plexus. The hook shot off into the night, pulling thick, black fishing line through my middle. I discovered this tether upon waking and hearing that Mac had died. The bench kids all woke one another, needing to grieve our loss. It was then I saw that the fishing line bound us.

Near “The Bench,” March 5, 2009

We transformed the bench and its cove that night. I remember the bench kids and dozens of people more, all of us grieving but also singing songs. I remember the messages we wrote in chalk on the wall and how powerful it all felt. I had never seen such a haunting, beautiful expression of sadness and love. I had never felt so baptized in pain.

There is not a day that I do not think of Maccabee. Some days, it is only fleeting, but beginning mid-February each year, the anniversary of his death lurches forward like a monster in an old horror movie. No matter how I run, I cannot escape. No one can outrun time and the persistence of memory. Now, during this stretch of weeks, I reflect on loss, not just of his life, but of innocence and youth. Our time together is crystallized in memory. The trick now is to transform pain into something greater.

After ten go-rounds of the earth, I can attest that grief gets no easier. I can still feel the fishing line and have accepted that it will always be there, connecting me to the other bench kids. Some of them I am still close to and speak with daily. Others I have not seen in a decade due to life and circumstance. But no matter our emotional proximity, I try to use the fishing line to not only share in sadness, but to send love.

I can see now that the line connects me to more than the bench kids, but to many people I have never met. It’s in Mac’s honor that we use this bond to live authentically, love fiercely, and work to make the world a better place. It’s what he would have wanted.

Ashera

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We all miss that boy. It’ll probably always hurt that he’s gone. But he left us so much, and that’s what these writings express. Watch for them in emails and postings throughout the month. Our hope is that these stories will inspire you to make your gift at jonahmac.org/donate to help us help kids build whole, healthy lives.We continue to miss Jonah and to feel grateful: a) that we had him in our lives; and, b) that he’s inspired us to do good stuff in his name. We’re incredibly honored that you’ve joined us in our work and thank you in advance for donating to our Summer Campaign.

Very sincerely,
Ellen, Billy, Aiden, Katie and Mark
The Jonah Maccabee Foundation

ALSO ALSO ALSO … The Jonah Maccabee Foundation is so proud to now be the beneficiaries of the proceeds from four exceptional musical recordings:

“So Is Life” was recorded by (ta da!) So Is Life, which includes Dan Nichols, Josh Nelson, Cantor Rosalie Boxt and Cantor Ellen Dreskin. It’s a magnificent album and is available to you as a download and on CD (if anyone still has a CD player). You can order So Is Life right here.

And now, you can order the music of Beged Kefet (which, for you youngsters out there, was a Jewish performance group that Ellen and Billy were in for a good 20 years or so). Beged Kefet recorded three albums, all now available to you! Our thanks to the members of Beged Kefet — Beth Sher, Cantor Leon Sher, Cantor Riki Lippitz, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Rabbi Les Bronstein and Rabbi Billy Dreskin — for allowing us to use the proceeds from their three recordings to help kids build whole, healthy lives. You can order your Beged Kefet digital downloads here. We’re also streaming, so check us out on Spotify, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to music!

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