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Ravi’s Story
We have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story
By Jayne Feld

Above: The Bloom family outside Montpelier during vacation this year: Lee, Jayne, Cary, Ravi and Craig

(Ed. Note: Earlier this year, the SJ Magazine family experienced a devastating tragedy. Exec. Editor Jayne Feld lost her 17-year-old son in a horrible car accident. Jayne is sharing some personal thoughts for SJ Mag readers.)

Seeing Hamilton with my son Ravi is one of my most cherished memories. Our epic mother-son date was on the night of his first day of his sophomore year of high school in 2018.

I just knew seeing the live performance would rock the world of my music-loving and American history-obsessed firstborn child. And it truly blew him away, lighting the spark that helped him overcome his shyness and anxieties to pursue his passions. For me, it was so amazing to observe the son I always worried about more than his brothers as he gained confidence with every opportunity he took to sing and play music in public. Before my eyes, he came into his own as a more aggressive, confident athlete and more at ease with himself.

I also loved having a partner in my Hamilton obsession. His love of colonial history fueled our day trips throughout South Jersey towns and battlefields during the pandemic. It was also awesome to have a carpool karaoke buddy who, like me, had no shame when it came to belting out songs – whether we were in a car or not.

I haven’t sung a Hamilton duet with anyone since Ravi’s passing in April, but the music is always on my mind. Our family was on a wonderful spring break vacation in Virginia, on the way back to the resort from visiting Montpelier, the presidential home of James Madison, when the car accident occurred that resulted in Ravi’s death and changed our family forever.

Not surprisingly, the months since we buried him have been a blur. We are all in therapy to process the sorrow of our profound loss and the trauma of having witnessed and lived through the horrific accident. Our grief is so public, which has its good and bad points. I don’t know how we would have managed without the many people who have helped us walk through this darkness and supported our family in so many ways. On the other hand, I represent every parents’ worst fear and people don’t always say the most sensitive things to me. I know their hearts are in the right place, but there have been some awkward moments.

Although I haven’t felt like singing much lately, various Hamilton songs feel as relevant as ever, and listening to them helps me feel closer to my beautiful son. Soon after Ravi’s passing it was “It’s Quiet Uptown.” In the musical, Alexander Hamilton wanders around aimlessly, grieving for his firstborn son Philip. The refrain “he is going through the unimaginable” strikes an obvious chord. Philip Hamilton was 19 when he died from gunshot wounds sustained in a misguided duel to defend his father’s honor. Ravi was just 17 when he died this spring. Our loss is still so raw.

The house is much too quiet now. During the pandemic, when we were stuck together 24/7, home life was anything but quiet. With the 3 boys in remote school while my husband Craig and I worked here too, there were some frustrating moments. Looking back now it was such a gift that we were always together, even if we were often butting heads. With so much free time, Ravi’s musical talent blossomed. Now I so desperately miss the sounds of his mind at work – the voice scales and songs he practiced over and over again as well as the endless repetitions of stanzas as he taught himself to play piano. Things that used to be annoying, like being awakened after midnight to the 3 boys cracking up over some inane joke among siblings, I now remember as endearing.

When my mind goes dark I can sometimes break through by changing the tune. “My Shot,” the rap about making your mark in life, takes me back to that epic Hamilton performance we saw together. Even in the dark theater I could almost see the lightbulb go on. I imagine that was the moment Ravi resolved that he wasn’t going to throw away his shot.

That song is also the earworm that reminds me how precious our time is and that I too can’t waste my shot – if not for me in this time of intense grieving then for Ravi. So many of the assumptions I made about life, my family and my place in the world have been shattered – but I’m still here, and I always wanted to be a fiction writer. I love my job at SJ but if I died tomorrow and never gave novel writing a serious chance that would be wasting my shot. So for Ravi, and myself, I’m writing every day.

 

Jayne Feld’s favorite picture with her son Ravi

“As a camper, it was all sports all the time. As a counselor, he had the gift to make children feel loved, and he truly enjoyed caring for them.”

 

The musical’s finale resonates the most right now. In “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” Hamilton’s wife Eliza explains all that she did to preserve his legacy, including opening the first private orphanage in NYC. She wonders how much more her husband could have accomplished if only he had more time. I too can’t help but obsess over what Ravi could have done with his talents, drive and goodness. That’s what really gets me crying. It’s also the song that fuels my drive to tell Ravi’s story and do good in the world to honor him.

Ravi’s Bimah, a project at the JCC Camps at Medford, is our “orphanage.” Among his favorite things, Ravi loved summers spent at camp. As a camper, it was all sports all the time. As a counselor, he had the gift to make children feel loved, and he truly enjoyed caring for them. That made it natural for us to join with the JCC to create Ravi’s Bimah, which will be an outdoor, open-air stage/bandstand that will provide a gathering space at the camp.

I know in my heart Ravi is encouraging me to write, and he would love that I’m comparing his life to Hamilton. I’m the one who lived to tell his story and that’s what I’m going to do.

 

You can help

Ravi’s Bimah

To honor Ravi’s memory, Jayne and her family are helping to create an open-air stage/bandstand at JCC Camps at Medford. Ravi loved attending camp – playing sports all day with some breaks for fishing was his idea of an amazing summer. Later as a counselor, he had an infinite reserve of patience and love for the children in his care, and he was named Counselor of the Year for his Hilltop Division in 2019.

The bimah will be an outdoor gathering space that can accommodate all campers at one time. This is the perfect way to remember Ravi, who treasured times when his community joined together in positive ways to do good in the world. Ravi’s kindness was endless, and he was a true leader. Jayne, her husband Craig and their 2 sons Lee & Cary know this special project will ensure Ravi’s beautiful qualities remain everlasting for the many, many people who adored him.

If you would like to help build Ravi’s bimah by making a donation, click here.

 

September 2021
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