Posted on June 15, 2016
Posted on June 4, 2015
Nine long years have passed since Sabrina’s death at the hands of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn. Her star shines brightly for those who knew her or were acquainted with her legacy: a bright, expansive spirit, a best friend, a soul mate, a daughter, a sister, a brilliant young intellectual. She is in my heart and yet remote galaxies away. Missing Sabrina tears me apart today as much as it did on that maddening day of final decision to acknowledge the end of her life.
Today I would like to remember Sabrina and celebrate her luminous being for all that she was and accomplished during her short life: the people she’s affected; the friends and family that she nourished and loved; the poems and prose she wrote; all the beauty she brought to us with her magical presence; delicate, exuberant and fierce. I would like her tribute to be a temple of tenderness, full of all old books with a lake of tears of love, acceptance and joy in its middle; a space where her writings can reverberate with a bell-like clarity:
“He cannot willnot doesnot cross the avenue and he knows that there is no other way. Only this longing, this unbearable tugging at his heart is there, at his will is there, at the part of his existence that realizes the limitations of only one body only one brain, it is there. And he is stopped on the corner. And he will remember this, later and later, and it will not be a regret, quite, it will be crystalline. It will be an amber-caught progression of moments that are ever and ever able to bring in his breath and make him wonder what and how and why and then his breath will flow away, again.”
As we observe seventh anniversary of Sabrina’s death I want to honor her heart, her mind and her beauty. I resist the pain of recollection and I wish that my memory of her could be pure and unpolluted by anger about what was done to her. Yet, it is impossible to remember Sabrina abstracted from what happened to her during her last days. Hence the necessity to remind the world that her death was a crime. That the subsequent cover up was a crime. That no justice was served. That the perpetrators remain unaccountable and that the Wyckoff hospital may still be causing harm to others, that the legal system promotes institutionalized corruption and indifference.
On the morning of May 30th 2007, a conscious, healthy, robust young women complaining about nausea and dizziness entered the Emergency Room of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn New York. From then on the records are sketchy and incomplete. There is a several hours gap during which no record entries have been made or the entries have been removed. She was sedated, lost consciousness, and was intubated. Her lungs collapsed, she had a heart attack and her brain stopped functioning. The order of events is questionable and the records seem to have been altered afterwards. We were lied to by the Wyckoff doctors, nurses and other hospital nurses at every step. Sabrina Seelig was pronounced dead on June 5th, 2007 at Cornell Weill Hospital in Manhattan (where she was transferred from Wyckoff). There seem to be a consensus now that her condition had become irreversible during her first day in Wyckoff Emergency Room.
In May 2012, five years after Sabrina died as result of her hospital visit, the trial against Wyckoff Heights Medical Center begun in Kings County Supreme Civil Court. The harrowing month of May 2012 in Brooklyn court was turned into a farce of justice by the judge Gloria Dabiri, the attorney Alan Fuchsberg and predictably the hospital defense attorneys. I have attempted a short summary of this difficult experience after the trial which you can find in previous posts. Anemona Hartocillis of The New York times gave her own account of this debacle: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/
Today we would love to remember only Sabrina’s love and brilliance, however mindful of Sabrina’s deeply attuned social conscience, ethical passion and practical investment in all matters involving human rights and justice I am convinced that she would not want us to avert our eyes away from what led to her cruel death and the injustice that followed. I am confident that she would want our love for her to go beyond our localized grief and resignation and would expect us to behold the dark truth with eyes wide open, no matter how much it resists scrutiny and daylight.
Posted on May 31, 2015
It has been six years from the day Sabrina went to Sabrina Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. Even though Sabrina was pronounced dead on June 5th, 2007, we now know that her condition became irreversible on May 30th, during that first day at Wyckoff. Each year brings both; the memory of our loss and the memory her luminous presence.
Here is a short passage from her novel “The Romans” where she describes one of her formative experiences. This is how I remember her today.
“A hiccup. The drawing in of a breath. This was the beginning of the rest of her life, after all. How had she come to be on this uptown 6 train? It was raining outside, this was where the raincoats came from. There is bad luck and confusion, from here came the panhandlers. The plastic seats were installed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, fixed and repellent of water, dirt and graffiti, regulation for certain trains (the A, the C, the E, especially, making less seldom appearances on other lines). She had come from twenty-three years. She had come from a specific composition of molecules. She had come from two human beings and she had come from some kind of frenetic chaotic beyond -this was a place that she came from only because that was what she felt. There was no concrete evidence of the existence of this place, but goddamnit if it was not a place, because the frenetic chaotic beyond was a more concrete plane than the dove grey dripping concrete at the top of the subway steps.
She came from Philadelphia, she came from Detroit, she came from Maine. She came, every day, from sleep, from dreams. She came from schools, classrooms stretching back for miles like ducks growing larger, one by one, in line, until they fell off the edge of a cliff, and here she was. Falling still. She came from certain degrees of happiness and unhappiness, self-torture, fright, quietude. She came from an accumulation of books, movies, advertisements, magazines, TV shows, TV movies, TV news, video games, newspapers, internet sites, posters, billboards, postcards, menus, signs, galleries, telephone books, pamphlets, journals -literary, scientific and otherwise. We shall not discuss soup, mashed potatoes, broccoli, croissants, burgers, chocolate both milk and dark, flour, sugar, tea, alcohol. Nor shall we discuss chairs, shirts, bowls, barrettes, toilet paper, candles, clothes hangers, notecards.
She came from a memory of drifting in a boat in a harbor in fog, and she came here. She arrived here?
This, after all, was the beginning of the rest of her life.
Coming home, her mind swayed still. For once, her apartment was welcome. She unlocked the front door, paying attention, for once, to the particular satisfaction of the sound of the tumblers clicking. The place was the same, exactly as she left it – obviously, but comforting tonight, for once, comforting. Had it been so long since she hadn’t returned to the apartment reluctantly, out of the listlessness or necessity? She didn’t turn the lights on, letting her eyes adjust to the blue black glow of collateral light from the street. She stripped off her clothes pinching the flesh of her hip a little less hatefully than usual and threw her own linen shift over her head, visions of linen shifted children leaping through the invisible air as she sat on the edge of her bed and smoothed the fabric over her thighs almost affectionately. She buried her feet under the comforter, then the legs, sliding her hips back, lying her head down slowly, for the feel of it, drugged, oversensitive to every sensation and movement. The pillow was deep and wide and forgiving. She fell asleep like people are meant to.
She had been lost in a boat in a harbor, once. She had been motoring back from a remote island where an old woman lived without electricity in the summers. Where she sat and considered her waning days. They had been caught in a fog without a compass, fog that was thick like cotton stretched across the eyes, with a map, but with short sightedness and a lack of omnipotence And she had searched feverishly for awhile, attempting interpretation of outcroppings of rocks, to match them to the formations on the map, to figure the position of the sun. The dog had grown more and more skittish, whining and pawing though the boat rocked and the engine roared and this was what had made them stop. Her mother in the prow declaring she could see land? She could see a boat? Her father steering. She had been sixteen, herself in the middle with the whining shaking dog and then her father had cut the motor and what a yawn opened up, then.
It had been quiet, the chunk-chunk of waves lapping the underside of the tin boat, the breathing of her parents, the dog’s breathing -shorter and quieter. The dog had quieted, sat in the bottom of the boat and looked slowly around herself. Apprehensively. There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to be done to save them. To find them again and the people quieted, too, and she had realized that she didn’t know whether they were drifting out to sea or toward the shore. The limbo was complete.
She had stared out into the great, unimpeachable blank of the horizonless, short landscape. She had closed her eyes. Opened them. White, black, red. When she closed her eyes, her breathing became loud in her ears and it became, or showed itself to be her soul, in a way. A physical evidence of that silver streak of purity that seems correctly located in mythology to be laid through the center of the torso. She had never been so relieved. So quiet. So close.
A lobster boat had found them after some hours and the crew did not ask them how they had come to be lost, only helped them aboard and towed the little boat, stopping to haul a trap here and there, regarding the castaways with slow and occasional eyes.”
Sadly we have lost the Sabrina Seelig case on all charges. I owe you a brief and concise explanation how that occurred. This is my personal account of my own understanding of what happened there.
It is my first and an imperfect attempt to summarize this harrowing month of May 2012 in Brooklyn court.
First of all I would like you to know that we went to this trial with trust that the truth must prevail. We did not expect healing or epiphanies but we hoped that we can seek accountability and responsibility. We are shocked and dismayed by the outcome.
Has Sabrina stayed home and had someone to help her through this rough patch she would have been fine the next day. Landing in the Wyckoff hospital she was profiled as a suicidal drug overdose, restrained and stripped of her natural defenses by oversedation, left alone without proper monitoring and abandoned to drown in fluids that slowly built up in her lungs, without adjustment of her sodium levels which caused her lungs to fill with water, leading to heart attack and finally brain edema.
We had to compromise our position from the very beginning. In order to enter the legal path we had find an attorney who was willing to take this case on retainer. No law firm would take this case unless they could justify this with a potential profit. The law in New York State does not give any value to a life of a young person unless that person has dependents or we could prove that whatever Sabrina did before her demise would bring a future profit. Hence we could not address the essential issue of wrongful death. Instead our attorney sued the defendants for her pain and suffering.
Secondly, our attorney has limited the time span of our claim. He would would not address the extensive long cover-up ( for over 24 hours after Sabrina was clinically dead hospital personnel maintained that she was asleep from sedatives and would wake up soon ) by Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, since the pain and suffering could only be addressed before Sabrina was in an irreversible condition.
Thirdly, we were suddenly presented with the set of questions to the jury that were supposed to decide on the verdict. These questions were bureaucratic and highly technical and didn’t reflect the reality of what has been done or not done to Sabrina. We will make them publicly available once we receive full court transcripts (our attorney paid for a part of them and they are very expensive). The judge further cropped and limited these questions, so in the end they were entirely removed from the any common sense notions of right or wrong. In short, we got formatted into injustice. We knew all of this was suspect but we still hoped that the jury would see through the legalistic jargon and the the trap of doublespeak nonsense. Unfortunately no one in the jury was capable of discerning justice from the whitewash and crude manipulation.
I feel personally responsible for not being more vocal on all these points but in order to move forward we had to have some faith in the process.
We had formidable opponents in Kings County Court. Our lawyer took on three powerful attorneys, two of them hired by the insurance companies for the doctor and the nurse and the third one defending Wyckoff hospital. All of the them brought expert witnesses who in the absence of any reliable hospital records spun various speculative theories about Sabrina’s condition that would fit into the defense narrative ( heart attack from stimulants on board or undetected heart disease ). They all presented very coherent if simplistic story that would clear their clients of any responsibility. It was an echo of national politics where repeated lies begin to resonate with tired and oblivious public. Each and every one of the experts and defense attorneys portrayed Sabrina as a suicidal drug addict and we had to listen to their shameless smear campaign and character assassination with calm and dignity. Like the skilled republican spin doctors who only intimate that president Obama may have not been born in the US they kept on instilling doubts about Sabrina’s character and her condition in the minds of the exhausted jury. They made the complex issues simple and almost all their sentences contained “it is obvious” or “we all agree” demagoguery. Adding insult to a killing they made a mockery of our effort to seek accountability.
Instead of accusing the organization responsible for Sabrina’s death we were forced to defend her name.
Unfortunately we did not lose in great style. Our attorney was unable to match their rhetorical flourish and forcefulness. Towards the end of the trial our lawyer was deep in the defense and lost in the technicalities trying to disprove the myriad of conjectures produced by the defense. Instead of a clear, impassioned and compelling closing statement he was entangled refuting false speculations of the defense, proving inaccuracies and contradictions in their arguments and in the end limited in time by the judge to properly conclude his argument.
The judge did not help. We were dismayed by her multiple rulings. Firstly she allowed the defense to suppress a crucial evidence pointing to the alteration of hospital records by removing pages from the documents presented to the jury. Secondly she sustained the defense objection to the our presentation of the highly relevant information concerning Sabrina’s deterioration. All sodium level issues, which caused Sabrina’s pulmonary edema were excluded from the argument on an inexplicable grounds. Inexplicably too, the judge limited our attorney’s time, rushing him to finish his closing statement and cutting short his final argument. It is hard to imagine that the judge did not see the injustice that was served in this court.
Seeking a verdict we were aware that even if had won we would be penalized for fighting for principle. We had an offer of settlement from one of the defendants before the trial but we decided to maintain transparency. The verdict option slashes possible financial reward to a third or a fourth of what a settlement could bring. In what is called settlement culture, judges pressure all sides to settle. You are supposed to take the money and move on. We did not want to suppress the verdict and we were penalized for this. The deck is stacked against the principle of truth and transparency.
We are not sure what is our recourse now. Our attorney is not willing to appeal and told us that it would cost us close to $40,000 to file an appeal. We were told that we could appeal on procedural issues or by claiming the case was proved by the preponderance of evidence. We are looking for counsel in this matter. Any suggestions are welcome.
Thank you again for your loving presence and support.
As we have expected the summations are scheduled for Wednesday, May 30, 2012. On the very same day, Wednesday May 30, 2007, five years ago Sabrina went to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. Although Sabrina was pronounced dead on June 5th, 2007, we now know that her condition became irreversible during that first day at Wyckoff.
It is an uncanny coincidence and an incredibly sad anniversary but we would love to see you. Your presence makes an enormous difference, it reaffirms the meaning behind our quest for any form of justice that we can find. The jury entrusted with the case has been following Sabrina’s story for almost a month. They deserve our respect and appreciation for their public service. Please come if you can and would like to support us through this process!
We expect the defense attorneys to present their last word in the morning. Alan Fuchsberg, who represents Sabrina’s parents will summarize his position after 2PM. It is possible that the verdict will not be reached until Thursday but the closing arguments are essential to the conclusion of the trial.
The address is 360 Adams St. Brooklyn, NY. Room. 956. Justice Gloria Dabiri. The actual entrance is on the other side of the building on the corner of Court Street and Cadman Plaza West, near the statue of Columbus: MAP
Again and again, big thank you to all of you who were able to be with us until now.
Big thank you to all of you who were able to be with us during the past three weeks. It makes a tremendous difference to have you there. The trial will resume on Tuesday, May 29 at 9:30am.
Please come if you can and would like to support us through this process. You can come anytime from 9:30 AM until 3:00 PM and leave early if you need to. We are now scheduled for Summations (this could change and we will keep you informed if this happens) on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. On the very same day, Wednesday May 30, 2007, five years ago Sabrina went to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. Although Sabrina was pronounced dead on June 5th, 2007, we now know that her condition became irreversible during that first day at Wyckoff.
The address is 360 Adams St. Brooklyn, NY. Room. 956. Justice Gloria Dabiri. The actual entrance is on the other side of the building on the corner of Court Street and Cadman Plaza West, near the statue of Columbus: MAP
Below is a quick synopsis to of last week:
Monday, May 21: expert nurse testimony from Theresa Mack in the am Dr. Johnson-Arbor cross examination in the pm
Tuesday, May 22: more cross for Dr. Johnson-Arbor in the am Jan and then Warren in the pm, minimal cross
Wednesday, May 23: Joanna Spinks and Rebecca Green in the am, no cross. 2 pm: Dr. Bilenko, Wyckoff psychiatrist in 2007, then Dr. Mardach’s expert doctor of Emergency Medicine and Toxicology
Thursday, May 24: Dr. Kaul’s expert doctor in Emergency Medicine, Toxicology, and Pneumology
Recess until Tuesday, May 29
Monday, May 28: holiday
Tuesday, May 29: Nurse Smith’s expert doctor witness
Wednesday, May 30: Summations
Big thank you to all of you who were able to be with us during the past two weeks. It makes a tremendous difference to have you there. The trial will resume on Monday, May 21 at 9:30am.
Please come if you can and would like to support us through this process. You can come anytime from 9:30 AM until 3:00 PM and leave early if you need to. This week we are scheduled to be there Monday through Thursday. Some of us who are potential witnesses may be asked to stay out of the courtroom until we are called to testify. After that we are allowed to observe the proceedings.
The address of Kings County Supreme Civil Court is 360 Adams St. Brooklyn, NY. We will be in room 956 with Justice Gloria Dabiri. The actual entrance is on the other side of the building on the corner of Court Street and Cadman Plaza West, near the statue of Columbus: MAP
For those unable to be in court, a quick synopsis to date:
Monday, May 7 – Wednesday, May 9: jury selection commences, 6 jurors and 4 alternates picked
Thursday, May 9: Opening arguments by our attorney, Alan Fuchsberg, then three opposing attorneys, representing a doctor, a nurse, and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and their resident
Monday, May 14: ER doctor on stand
Tuesday, May 15: ER doctor, then hospital resident on stand
Wednesday, May 16: “holding room” nurse in a.m., mother in p.m.
Thursday, May 17: Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, expert witness for the defense, testifies in a.m., cross examination begun in p.m.
On Monday, May 21: Dr. Johnson-Arbor will return in p.m. for continued cross examination. Morning is our expert nurse.
Seymour is proud to provide a platform for Sabrina’s brilliant creative voice. Approaching the 5th anniversary of Sabrina’s death, it is with profound respect that we share her story and offer you her words. To read further click here: LINK
As we are approaching the fifth anniversary of Sabrina’s tragic death and the upcoming trial against the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, which may begin as early as next week we want to remember her life and art.
On the morning of May 30th, 2007 a 22-year old artist, writer and student named Sabrina Seelig went to her neighborhood hospital in Brooklyn. She was a perfectly healthy young woman; but the previous night she had been up all night translating Latin for a project at Hunter College, where she was studying Classics. Early the next day, she felt dizzy, and decided to call an ambulance to take her to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center to seek medical care. Her family and friends tried to locate her for the next eight hours: we found her that evening in the hospital emergency room, in a coma. She was sedated, and never regained consciousness. Sabrina Seelig was pronounced dead on June 5, 2007, ten days before her 23rd birthday. Even today, five years after this tragedy, the passage of time has not dulled our sharp sense of shock.
All of us who knew Sabrina were touched by the subtle magnetism of her personality. It would take Sabrina’s pen to convey the complexity of that force, because Sabrina lived her life the way she wrote; with full awareness of its lyrical form. Her passions were contagious and her faith in art and love were uncompromising. All of us around her felt challenged by her idealism and integrity. She was unafraid of either depths or heights, which made her hard to keep up with. But if we wanted to be around her, we had no choice but to rise to the challenge.
There’s a famous Seelig family anecdote about preschool teachers who contacted them, concerned about Sabrina’s self-esteem, after she happily handed over her toys when other children asked her for them. Her selflessness confused the teachers; it was only later, when she refused to take off her princess costume after a school performance, that they understood that her instinctive generosity grew out of her quiet confidence and gentle authority.
Sabrina did not live in a fantasy world. Her feet were solidly planted on the ground, and her steps were firm. But she used her strength to make her dreams real. Her unabashed romanticism was of the most grounded kind. Sabrina helped put herself through college by waitressing, and in 2005, late at night, after her work shifts, she would walk home alone through the empty streets of Bushwick with an enormous canvas bag on her shoulder crammed with novels and history books. The weight of that bag is legendary. Before she enrolled at Hunter, she had studied at a small liberal arts college, but she grew impatient with the lack of structure in her coursework. She came to New York because she was serious about leading an authentic intellectual and cultural life.
Sabrina was born on June 15, 1984, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her embrace of life as an ethical and creative project dates from her earliest years. At Abington Friends School, which she attended from the age of four to eleven, several charismatic teachers fostered her love of reading. She began a lifelong habit of sketching, writing journal entries and recording observations of the world around her. Abington Friends is a Quaker School, and while studying there, Sabrina was exposed to the values of that tradition, which put stress on ethics, equal rights, and the weekly practice of meditative silence. It was at Abington that she wrote her first poems and her first short stories. It was also there that she discovered theater and staged school productions. She started making her annual story book, and was nicknamed “the human dictionary” by her classmates. The faculty there treated her with uncommon respect, nurturing her self-belief, which later emerged in her confident rapport with people of all ages.
At the age of 13, after the family moved to Rockland, Maine, Sabrina launched her first entrepreneurial venture, Lulu’s Ice Cream—built with the help of her father and her sister, Ashley. She spent many Maine summers selling ice cream, writing plays and poems, reading books and listening to jazz recordings on her cherished antique gramophone.
Between the ages of 12 and 14, Sabrina went to the Riley School in Glen Cove, Maine. Here she developed her first creative friendships, became deeply involved with Midcoast Children’s Theater, and staged many plays, including an annual Shakespeare production. During this period, she also wrote and directed her first play, and composed many of the poems and short stories that fill her thick journals.
At the age of 15, at Camden Hills High School, in Rockport, Sabrina founded the theater collective Professional Young Actors of Maine (PYAM), for which she and her friends wrote, produced, directed and staged a variety of plays over several years at converted storefronts, rented opera halls and art centers. In her junior year, she directed her high school’s entry in a statewide theater competition, and the following year, she inaugurated the school’s new black box theater with a production of Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” which she directed. During the same year Sabrina chose to complete part of her high school education through home schooling. While living with her parents, she read 125 books in 4 months. It would be impossible to exaggerate the formative influence Sabrina’s parents had in shaping their daughter’s creative passion. Sherrie Gibson and Warren Seelig, both artists, believed in and supported Sabrina’s sense of mission, encouraged her will and independence, and fed the fire of her fierce brand of humanism.
At 17, Sabrina made the first of several trips abroad, traveling (mostly) solo throughout Europe, before settling in Prague for a month to write and reflect upon the city’s transformation in the post-Wall era. She would later mine these experiences for her unpublished novel, “The Romans.” The book is an imaginative, third person account of the impressions its narrator, Beata, gathers on her wide-ranging search for love and insight. Sabrina was a magical stylist, and drew inspiration from her favorite authors, especially Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust.
Upon her return from Europe in 2002, Sabrina enrolled at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she studied until the autumn of 2004, when she moved to New York City. In 2005, she began a relationship with a much older artist. Sabrina was living large. And though she loved her New York life, she took every opportunity to visit her family in Rockland, Maine. She spent her last Christmas with her family there in December of 2006. Her deep affection for the coast of Maine, whose landscape and people played such a significant part in her life, was reflected in her stories and in her novel.
In 2007, after returning from a winter trip to Costa Rica, Sabrina began her second semester at Hunter College. Although she was a full-time student, she contributed frequently to the Brooklyn-based arts and culture newspaper “The Brooklyn Rail,” and supported herself by working part-time as a waitress in an East Village bistro. Somehow, she also found time to devote two days a week to tutoring at the Isaacs Neighborhood Center in Harlem, where she shared her great love of books and literature with high school students. In the spring of 2007, she worked on the revision and completion of her novel, and wrote a trunkful of short stories and poems, a novella and a screenplay.
Early in 2006, Sabrina had traveled to Cambodia, Burma and Thailand. Inspired by the plight of the people and the culture of Southeast Asia, she had planned to return to the Thai/Burmese border early in 2008, intending to join the Burma Volunteer Project, which works with Pro-Democracy Burmese groups teaching English in refugee camps.
Sabrina connected and inspired people wherever she went. In her final days, at Cornell Weill Hospital in Manhattan (where she was transferred from the Brooklyn hospital), family and friends held round-the-clock vigils at her bedside. Dozens of friends at a time held hands in a circle, praying and often singing, as Sabrina lay unconscious in her I.C.U. unit. Some had traveled from as far as Egypt, Oregon, and California to see her; others came from cities all along the Eastern seaboard. Day and night they shared stories of her life and of her contributions to the lives of others. Sabrina was an organ donor.
The last words Sabrina wrote appeared in a simple note that she emailed to her Hunter professor, along with her completed assignment—a Latin translation— the night before she went to the hospital.
Today, Sabrina’s charismatic vitality and the powerful resonance of her writing remain with us in the rich legacy of her journals, plays, poems, stories and novel, continuing to bring together those who knew her, and those who learned about her only after her death. To those of us who knew and loved her, Sabrina lives on, inseparable from her art. In her last year of life, she wrote in an untitled poem:
“…and we cannot help
these days emblazoned somewhere
and our stomachs churn
and hearts contract
and the rain, soft
cannot wash it all away.”
We have been living without Sabrina for four years now! Today, on June 15 she would have been 27 years old. Today her distinct voice rings through the abyss of her absence with crystalline pitch. In Sabrina’s words:
“Breath comes in and retreats from the body, approaches, invades lungs and abandons the flowering tendrils of interior. Are we supposed to have a bit of shattering in us for what we don’t know? Cry, then, but don’t do it because you think you know how large or small it is, or how ugly or how benign. The world is one less – or more – lonely.” – from THE ROMANS by Sabrina Seelig
The reading of Sabrina’s works was a powerful reminder not only of the scale of her early achievement but primarily of her elusive brilliance. Feisty readings brought the shimmering beauty of her syntax and the ferocious integrity of her message to the cavernous space of the Backroom Bar, where we converged. At moments, to use one of Sabrina’s favorite adjectives, “her voice” reached a crystalline pitch. It was one of those rare events that will always resonate with everyone present on that evening. Even though this time we wanted the event to be about Sabrina’s literary voice and not about mourning, there were some tears which we hoped to, but could not avoid. And there was this massive hole that seemed so much bigger the day after. Now Sabrina’s words are echoing in the world without her.
Sabrina Seelig Birthday Reading, Tuesday, June 15th
We’ve been living without Sabrina for three years now. On June 15 she would have been 26 years old. While her absence still feels incomprehensible to us, we want to remember her luminous being and celebrate her great spirit by giving a recurrent voice to her words. This year, on Sabrina’s birthday we will gather in New York for an evening of informal readings of her poetry, stories and excerpts from her novel; conversations and drinks. Please keep your Tuesday, June 15th evening open to spend with us.
We are looking forward to being together with you.
For location and R.S.V.P. please write to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org
The outdoor stage at the new Riley Children’s Performing Arts Center will be dedicated to Sabrina. The dedication will take place on Monday, June 1, 2009 at 5:30 p.m., opening the annual Shakespeare play.
Please read the letter below;
“My Life, My Love, My Theatre” – Reflection by Sabrina Seelig, age 12 while a Riley student.
Dear Friends and Family,
I am writing to ask for your support of a very special project honoring the memory of our dearly beloved Sabrina. The Riley School, where Sabrina and I attended middle school, is in the midst of a capital campaign to support the construction of a beautiful Children’s Performing Arts Center. We have the opportunity to name the outdoor stage Sabrina’s Stage, and I am hoping you will help me raise the funds to make this possible.
I cannot credit Riley with giving Sabrina Seelig a love of the theater or the arts. To say that Riley was responsible for the creative energy and joy that poured out of her would be a misrepresentation. She was one of those rare and invaluable people born knowing who they are and what they love, and go about manifesting it with absolute fearlessness. What I can say for Riley is that they gave her, and all of us lucky enough to have spent time there as a young person, the dignity and possibility of space.
When Sabrina and I decided that we wanted to put on our own play sans adult supervision or direction, Riley allowed is the round room in the library for six months of lunchtime rehearsals, then gave us the space and time to perform our play. The production remains a triumph in my memory not only for its theatrical quality (immense, I assure you) but also for the artistic independence and strength it awoke in all of us.
Not only did Riley give us the space and time in which to develop that play, it also taught us to believe in the importance and possibility of the arts. The fact that Riley had a beautiful photography studio, that it now has a pottery barn, that we were allowed to build tree houses at recess, that once a year we painted kites and ﬂew them above the ﬁeld, that we threw ourselves into a Shakespeare play every spring, is all testament to the respect Riley has always had for the arts, and even more importantly, the respect they have for their students as artists.
When I ﬁrst set foot on the wide expanse of new cedar that will be the outdoor stage at the new Riley Children’s Performing Arts Center all I could think of was how much Sabrina would have loved it, how it would have ﬁlled her with such ideas and excitement. Indeed she would have relished the theater building as a whole and I have no doubt would have matched its beauty and warmth with an outpouring of her own creativity. To have such a space available to the entire Midcoast community is so important.
Thanks to the generosity of two donors, we have already raised $36,000, and are well on our way to meeting the goal of $50,000 for the stage. We also need $5000 for outdoor lights and $5000 for an outdoor sound system. Please help us in any amount you can so that we may dedicate the outdoor theater to this extraordinary young woman. To have her represented indeed such a beautiful theatrical space will be an enormous gift to all of us who were lucky enough to have known and loved her. In addition I can think of no greater spiritual presence than our dearest Sabrina to watch over and inspire the next generation of Riley theater artists.
The dedication of Sabrina’s Stage will take place on Monday, June 1, 2009 at 5:30 p.m. before the annual Shakespeare play.
With deep gratitude and love,
Dear Friend of Sabrina and Riley Graduate
After Riley, Sabrina founded her own theater company, Professional Young Actors of Maine (PYAM), which produced several plays each year in various Midcoast venues. In her junior year, she directed Camden Hills High School’s entry in the One Act Play competition, and in her senior year she inaugurated the new Black Box theater with Six Characters in Search of an Author. She traveled and worked and wrote for a year, then attended Hampshire College for two years, where she acted in plays at Amherst and Smith Colleges and started to work on her first novel. Another year of traveling and working and writing took her to eastern Europe, Central America, and South East Asia, then back to New York City, where she enrolled at Hunter College as a classics major. At the time of her death, she was a full time student, also working and writing for The Brooklyn Rail, a monthly arts newspaper, tutoring writing in Harlem to high school students, and at work on her second novel.
She is profoundly missed.
Your donation to Sabrina’s Stage will hopefully spark other young
artists, thespians and writers.
Sabrina you must have been made of meringue
all that sugar lightness & white everyone wanting
you to whisk them into your afternoon oh to know
the silt on you windowsill the ash
you’re dreaming still where is your window
this evenings torn silk tossed to the floor
all your lovers fall like lace
at the mention of your name Sabrina
all that lightness and white we were there
in the corset of high school
once we were yoked we were trying to imagine
the size of your great-grandmothers ribcage
you were trying to make her blouse fit me
buttoning tiny black buttons I was sucking in
the wisp of your life
you wanted us all to love something very old forever
the day we hung your dresses on the line one silk one
was moved by the breath of the afternoon over my face
it was the material of your wrist your nape
we want to know the smell of your favorite afternoon
the silt of you dreams your linen dreams
we want to know where is your window
your lightness too light for this morning ache
oh Sabrina oh Sabrina oh
Many of us, who love and miss Sabrina will gather on Monday, June 16th at Judson Memorial Church, to celebrate her 24th birthday, with a reading of her stories, excerpts from her novel and poetry. This is an early attempt to bring the complexity, passion and stylistic splendor of her letters to life.
On that evening we will read and listen to Sabrina’s words, so that her brilliant voice can resonate beyond the pain and void we feel.
The event will begin at 7 PM and afterwards we will move on to Tree, the restaurant where Sabrina used to work, for food and drinks.
Please write to tell us whether you can attend the event and let us know if you would like to participate in the event as a reader or performer.
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
190 1st Avenue (between 11th & 12th street)
Wayne’s tribute from Salvador, Brasil
And still I dream of a bargain.
You ask for a cup of tea.
Here you are
dressed so smartly.
like a doll-
and your eyes-
never, never changing.
That’s the deal.
It will not do.
I would give my body cell by cell to have you well.
Or another blue moon,
scrolling back the ICU data,
the rabbit hole tumble.
You would wake,
sneak a cigarette
in and out
all on your own.
you travel far
a seraphic wisp
of tethered luminous light.
I am shot through with yellow rain.
still reaching for your hand.
A post from Ashley
I think of You
All glowing, All beauty
Thriving, All things rejoined
Repaired, Healed and Alive.
without malice, without fear
This will be.
She will be all of
her pungent glowing ethereal
Self, not unhealed.
I think of Sabrina as what she is
Which is all I admire.
Fierce, Burning Intensity looking for more.
Being all she wants to be, without hesitation.
SABRINA IS LIVING
AND WILL LIVE.
She woke me up on the train. I was sitting on the top. We shared grape juice.
The wind was blowing strong. I was reminded of Woody Guthrie, playing guitar in the rain. Ducking underneath tunnels, our hair blew around our ears, knotting each strand. The western sky was filled with clouds that should have been our pillows. I told her it was too late to be doing this. We could not be here. It’s impossible! She said to me, it’s not in the head, it’s in the heart.
Sabrina. When I think of Sabrina I see her in some fabulous 30’s dress, belted with ankle socks and the perfectly imperfect factory -worker girls shoes. Shins bruised into adulthood, hair unkempt, in need of a scrub, a true bohemian plucked from time and given as a gift for those who could only dream of being such. How is it that at the age of 22 she was able to live a bigger and fuller life than those who get a full term to try?
To think of all she could have done with just a bit more time; too painful, too selfish a thought of such a spirit. It is a comfort to know that Bean had found a community of people she felt akin to, feeling at home with her peers.
Raised by parents undaunted by challenge, a family united in their Viking spirit. I remember visits to Elkins Park when Ashley and Sabrina were small and wilder than most. Being tossed out to the Great Room in their coats to “run it off” then further away into the dark yard where they would disappear into a world of fantasy and game, returning hours later pink cheeked and worn out. Two sisters, so similar and so different. My heart brakes further in the loss of that bond and respect they grew to have of each other. A connectedness suspended.
Summers in Maine we would watch as Sabrina produced plays, photographed the Lobster Parade and opened Lulu’s Ice Cream. She was always committed to what she did, never a half attempt. Her devotion to literature once lead her to taping herself reading the Hobbit for a boy she babysat. At the time I think she was no older than 15. Amazing.
In France at Dot’s wedding I watched as she dazzled and seduced a boy who had fallen under her spell. I will never forget how beautiful she was walking backwards up the cobbled road of this ancient French town, unwinding her scarf, cheeks pink, with a sly grin. An image plucked from a movie yet so absolutely Sabrina.
And now? Where do we go from here? I think about Bean and feel not just gifted, but honored to have known her and watched her grow-up. Some believe that young people are taken from this life because they are needed, that they can help the future to be a better place. If this is so then I am reassured thinking that Sabrina is hard at work. The future has just gained a Viking Warrior Angle with bruised shins and dirty feet. I have learned an invaluable lesson by Sabrina’s untimely death, one that is perhaps cliché when not truly understood. Life is precious and fleeting. I hold my children a bit tighter and believe in that leap of faith as they set out into the world.
My deepest love goes out to the Viking Warriors – Sherrie, Warren and Ashley.
It is December 5th, 2007, only six months since our beloved Sabrina passed away. Words continue to fail us in our attempt to comprehend this catastrophe. It is impossible to convey how much we miss her
We are attempting to honor her in many ways, fanning the flame that she sparked in all of our hearts. A network of family and friends is working to publish her various writings along with the establishment of a foundation reflecting her passionate spirit and much that she cared about. We are planning a reading of her poems and short stories, and a temple is in the process of being designed in her honor. The new outdoor theater at The Riley School in Glen Cove, Maine has been named in her honor and donations are being accepted. But above all, Sabrina continues to live strong in the hearts and minds of all who knew her as it seems like only yesterday that she was with us.
We are also attempting to untangle the circumstances which caused her physical demise after being admitted to Wycoff Heights Medical Center in Bushwick. The Medical Examiner’s findings indicate that overhydration (water intoxication) was the prime suspect in her death. There are still many questions regarding her time in the hospital emergency room. We are also working with medical experts who are studying every aspect of her condition and treatment, trying to discover the cause of her rapid decline while being hospitalized. We will announce all the findings as soon as we have specific information.
This is a short excerpt from Sabrina’s novel “The Romans” that I would like to share with you:
“To sort out what is out until she is able to live… agreeably. It is a question of tolerance of the world in order to love it, serve it, integrate herself into it with meditative and reflective ability. To give to it as simply and well as rain from the sky.”
The hospital room.
Down in the valley, up in the ocean.
Over there right here
this one right here.
In the sky, not anywhere
Going by, in the newspaper
locked out dishevelled.
On a budget. On the beach.
On the good graces of god
and Jesus Christ
His only son, Our lord.
May His Mercy Live On
Forever and Ever
I have been struggling all week with that to say today. I wanted so badly to write something epic, perfect, and gorgeous to you. I wanted to build you a candle shrine of words, something that would serve to tell how much you mean to me, how unparalleled I think you are.
What I’ve come to realize is that I will spend the rest of my life figuring out how to tell you. I have realized that today is only the launching, the first few steps down the long path of remembering and honoring you.
Because I refuse to put your memory in a box on a shelf. To do so would be to shelve what I love best in the world, in my life, in myself. You touched the very best parts of me, parts that glowed when you were near, like a firefly. Like two fireflies. Like a fire in the heart. You are so much a part of me that I will never be able to untangle you and turn away.
So today becomes another memory in the book of you. And I will spend all my life pulling out those memories and holding them up to the light…
Your smell. The way you packed your suitcase. How your eyes looked when you opened your mouth wide and sang. Every shape you made in the bed next to me, when you woke before me and I could sense you there, reading the day, waiting for me to wake.
Well I’m awake Bean. My body is awake. My heart is awake and I want to open it up as wide as it will go so that you will always have a place to visit, to come and sit and drink your jasmine tea, and read your many books.
Your books. Your fountain pens. Your curling left-handed script.
Your dreamless sleeps. Your camera eye squint. Your bruised legs. Your cocked hip. Your tweed, your tulle, your silk. The antique ebony cigarette holder.
You coming to get me in the old Toyota. After dark. The windows all the way down and the world outside a deep green smear as we sped past. Lighting cigarettes and fiddling with the music which we could hardly hear over all the wind whipping through. Out to the lake. Parking. Scrambling and scraping down to the rocks. Pulling off all our clothes to stand naked and shivering and feeling we’d made a very,very bad decision. And then. The scream. The leap. The plunge.
To be loved by you was the deep dive into the inky lake on a summer’s night with the stars all around. You once wrote to me “I don’t actually mind missing you because you are still there. And missing you is, in a way, just another way, a different perspective of loving you.” Well I will work my whole life to live up to that love, to match your quite unbridled heart, to explore all the many things you have and will continue to teach me. You are and will be in all the work I do. In the daily prayer of my life.
This is a love letter to you my Bean, to say that my whole life will be a love letter to you.
Thank you for sharing with me your most astonishing life.
I am forever changed and forever yours.
as meat loves salt.