Tuesday, June 24, 2014

#rebeccapurple.

Rebecca Alison Meyer
Ahuva Raya bat Kayla
7 June 2008 – 7 June 2014
image available at http://tinyurl.com/mrkb3vw 
On June 7, 2014, Rebecca Alison Meyer, age 6, of Beachwood, Ohio, passed away from complications associated with an anapestic astrocytoma ("brain cancer").  She and her parents, Kathryn and Eric Meyer, endured a multiyear struggle to save her life; Eric, a web technology expert concerning Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) blogged poignantly about the treatment.  The final memorial Eric wrote for Rebecca can be read here; the Economist's Babbage (technology) columnist drew attention to it today here:
"The death of a child is always a tragedy, and people of good will try to make sense of it through whatever means they have."
Eric's friends had one tool at their disposal to memorialize his daughter -- in CSS.  Style sheets control the appearance of certain items on a web page, and they allow colors to be expressed hexadecimally; #000000 is black, #FFFFFF is white. Other colors are combinations in between.  However, there are a certain select group of colors that may be expressed by name. For example, #ADFF2F can also be described as #GreenYellow.

Rebecca was particularly fond of purple -- her parents asked that family and friends at her funeral wear purple in memory of her.  Many who were touched by Eric's relating of Becca's story couldn't attend, for they were all over the world.  But a group of technologists, led by Jeffrey Zeldman, suggested that #663399 in CSS be designated #beccapurple.  As of the nightly Firefox build on June 23, the color has indeed been designated by name, but as #rebeccapurple.  Eric requested the change, saying:
"A couple of weeks before she died, Rebecca informed us that she was about to be a big girl of six years old, and Becca was a baby name. Once she turned six, she wanted everyone (not just me) to call her Rebecca, not Becca." 
"She made it to six. For almost twelve hours, she was six. So Rebecca it is and must be."
One particular passage from Eric's writings especially moved me, because it expressed and captured something so clearly important. In her last days, Eric and Kat made sure that, as long as she was able, Rebecca could go each day to kindergarten.  His explanation of why is one of the most saddening and yet eloquent statements of the nature of education and parenting I've ever read.  And so, as my tribute to Eric and Kat, as well as Rebecca Meyer, I include that passage, from May 1 of this year, from a post Eric entitled "Heroic Measures."
"This morning, I walked Rebecca and her best friend to kindergarten, all of us enjoying the crisp spring sunshine after the long, cold winter. The girls ran ahead of me to see if the playground had been re-flooded by last night’s rains (it hadn’t) and then balance-walked a low retaining wall. Once inside the school doors, I hugged and kissed Rebecca and told her to have a good day, collecting a hug and kiss and a 'Love you, Daddy' in return. I watched as she tromped down the hallway in her sparkly new Bella Ballerina shoes and pajamas (today is a special Pajama Day at school) and rounded the corner out of sight. And then I handed her principal a Do Not Resuscitate order." 
"... [w]e carry DNR cards with us, and have given the school a DNR form sealed into a manila envelope with our names and phone numbers written on the outside, because if she suddenly seizes, our overriding goal is to make her as comfortable as possible while she dies. The EMTs or hospice or we ourselves will give her medication to take away the pain and, if at all possible, the fear. As much as she needs." 
"... [w]e send her to school because she loves it there, however much she may complain about having to get up in the morning and get dressed and put on a coat to walk to school. Try as she may to hide it, she loves to learn. She loves her teacher, her classmates, and her friends, and they love her in return. It would be selfish of us to take that away, despite the risks, despite the hours of separation. It would shift some of our burden onto her shoulders, force her to pay the cost of our sorrow and fear ... we can give her her life, as whole and unbroken as we can manage, and an unspoken promise to fiercely guard it from even ourselves."
"We can give her this."

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