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‘I can’t hold on any longer’, wrote Adam Seef

  • AdamSeef2
“I have finally reached rock bottom. I feel so alone no matter how many people I am surrounded by and cared for by.”
by NICOLA MILTZ | Jul 04, 2019

The late Adam Seef wrote these words to his beloved family shortly before ending his life last week in Israel while on holiday with his best friends. He had just turned 19, and had the world at his feet.

Tall, dark, and handsome, this popular first-year medical student at the University of the Witwatersrand was, according to close family and friends, a perfectionist with a troubled soul, struggling with identity, anxiety, and depression.

Grief and shock spread like shrapnel as the news of his untimely passing detonated throughout Israel and the diaspora. Spiritual leaders on tour with Adam’s friends have conducted prayer sessions in his memory, including at the Kotel in Jerusalem, and at Auschwitz in Poland.

Many friends ended their holidays, rushing back to South Africa to attend his funeral. Traumatised teenagers and others on the Ohrsom Student tour who stayed behind have received counselling.

Behind the scenes, communal organisations and authorities in both countries moved mountains to get Adam home so he could be laid to rest.

In a bid to quell the disrespectful rumours that instantly flooded social media, the distraught family were advised to post a message on Facebook.

In it, they alluded to the heartfelt letter that their desperately unhappy, much-loved son had left them to explain why he couldn’t go on any longer.

Their post read, “He explained that he was struggling with his place in the world, his transition into adulthood, his identity, and his sexuality.”

The post went viral, and has sparked international conversations on mental health, societal norms, and sexual identity. It has also ignited blogs on well-known news sites, Twitter posts by leading journalists, and newspaper articles.

Addressing his beloved parents, Jodi and Justin, and his sister, Megan, who he adored, as well as his doting grandmother, Sandra Seef, Adam wrote, “Ending my life is no one’s fault but my own. I am so sorry if my death may greatly affect many people, but no one will ever understand what it’s like living with a depression so great as this. People can say what they want, but I seriously cannot bear living another second like this.”

Shattered by grief, his parents said, “Our beautiful boy was sensitive, kind-hearted, and caring. He battled with low self-esteem, a warped self-image, and anxiety, and this made him miserable. To the world, Adam was confident, fun, and happy, but at home, Adam was troubled, and would often lash out and take out his inner pain on us.”

Adam came into the world suffering from double pneumonia. He spent the first eleven days of his life in the intensive-care unit at the Sandton Clinic in Johannesburg clinging to life.

“He always fought so hard to survive and fit in. It must have been exhausting,” said his mother.

From an early age, Adam suffered from anxiety, and hated being alone, especially at night. He had different interests to his soccer-playing peers, and often felt isolated on the school playground.

Justin bought his son a Saint Bernard after researching the best animal for children with anxiety, this despite living in a comfortable, yet modest-sized townhouse.

“Casanova was Adam’s boy, he slept in his room, and barely left Adam’s side, offering him comfort,” said Justin.

Sadly, Casanova was put to sleep three weeks ago. “I think Cas knew Adam was struggling, and he knew that he had done all he could for him,” said Jodi.

“Adam’s sense of self-worth improved in high school,” she said. He found new interests, and shone at everything he did including drama and academics. High school became his happy place, said his friends.

He excelled academically, achieving brilliant results. He delved into copious novels, loved movies and roller coasters, and wanted to be a filmmaker, instead opting for medicine. He recently wrote his idea of a Grey’s Anatomy script, including student friends as members of the cast.

But he found the transition to university challenging. Although he excelled in his first semester, Adam grew miserable.

At the packed funeral earlier this week, Rabbi Levi Avtzon, the associate rabbi at Linksfield Shul, told mourners that in his letter, Adam had shared the story of a whole different Adam.

“In his own mind, Adam Seef was never good enough. Despite the mountains of love that surrounded him, he lived in a valley of self-hate and darkness.”

Adam “believed that death was easier than admitting to himself and to the world: I am different. I don’t fit the mould”, Avtzon said.

His cousin, Jamey Wolpe, said, “Adam and I have grown up together. He was like my brother. His life’s mission was to make people smile and feel good, even though he was going through so much pain.”

Two of his best friends and roommates at the hotel in Eilat, Israel, said they were shocked and saddened.

“I knew Adam had insecurities and anxiety,” Mikey Goldman said. “I didn’t know he was depressed. I feel sad that he couldn’t express the pain he was going through. He was an awesome friend, we had a lot of fun together, and made many happy memories.”

Said Adam Chilewitz, “Seef was passionate about his hobbies and his friends. He spoke eagerly about the things he enjoyed, be it pop culture or thrill-seeking. I would never have imagined that someone who is able to speak with such excitement in their voice could be depressed. He was always the life of the party.”

He said Adam was one of the funniest people he knew, and had made people “cry with laughter”.

Lorraine Srage, the principal of King David High School Linksfield, told the SA Jewish Report that Adam was an “exemplary student” who “embodied the true values of a mensch”.

“His perfectionism, and his quest to make the world a better place through outreach, has left an indelible place in our hearts,” she said.

Rabbi Avtzon said children must know that they are loved unconditionally. “We won’t love them less no matter what secrets they hide, and no matter what they discover about themselves in the process of maturing and growing up.”

Adam’s death, the rabbi said, should deepen our understanding of mental illness, and “must remind us to be more understanding of boys and girls who are struggling with their sexuality. We must reach out with love to everyone in the community.”

In a birthday message to her son a few weeks ago, Jodi told Adam how proud she was of him and his achievements, and said she could not wait to watch how his life unfolded.

“Now our hope is that Adam’s life will be celebrated, that it will create awareness and compassion regarding mental health, and foster a world where people are accepted for who and what they are,” she said.

Adam ended his letter by saying, “Each and every one of you has helped me to live a meaningful and joyous life, and know that I’m happier now in death.”

7 Comments

  1. 7 Trevor Barry- Durban 04 Jul
    My condolences to the bereaved familes whom love Adam dearly, the tragic loss of any relative especially one in the prime of his life is gut wrenchng to the core ! He is in God's hands & will be cradled by all past & present RIP Adam.                                                       I had met Samuel Seef when i lived in Johannesburg periodically & he struck me as a man on a mission with the midas touch & with a heart of gold , I can only think Adam himself was of the same callibre & cut from the same cloth even with his own troubles RIP
  2. 6 Melanie heyman 04 Jul
    I think the synagogue should do more outreach work.I think specifically about the people who don't have mountains of love or family surrounding them.
    Once a person has decided to take their life it's because they see no other option.
    The Jewish community has for years stigmatised the gay community.As a gay Jewish woman ,now 60, I will never feel able to trust the Jewish community.
    It's a case of " it's ok but not if it's in my back yard or my son or daughter."......
  3. 5 Jenny Saltz 04 Jul
    Wish the Seef family long life. May their darling son RIP. How sad that such a clever kind gorgeous young man could not get out of the darkness.
  4. 4 Michael Barnett 05 Jul
    If only the words this rabbi said were "I want children to know from the outset that they can be attracted to anyone and love anyone and we will treat them all the same, no matter what".

    But no, he's enouraging secrets to be kept and reinforcing the process of self-discovery, which as those of us who have had to keep this sort of secret know all to well, might just dovetail with the telephone call to the stonemason.

    Secrets and self-discovery are the problem.  Heterosexual and cis-gender people don't have secrets and don't go through self-discovery because they're the expectation in this rabbi's world.
  5. 3 Kieran C Da Mata 06 Jul
    As an out, gay student from Wits and LGBTQ+ activist I was not even the slightest aware of this sad incident that happened in the month of pride. This should be spoken about more on campus and university media outlets should report on this too. One of my community members was in the same spaces as I and felt so ostracized and even in death people appear too ashamed to admit his truth as a queer person. The ultimate tragedy of this is a bright individual felt too insecure and pressured to be someone he was never born or destined to be. His attitude to gratify those around ended up putting him in a place he did not want to be in. If he had of studied film at Wits this year he would have been in my own division, I feel a deep connection to this story in that he could have been saved but it is a story yet again about the countless people who knew there was something wrong but did not take enough time to actually try and solve the root cause of it. This martyr deserved so much more in and out of life and I wish, as his ‘queer family/peer’ that I could’ve helped him too.
  6. 2 Nadine Bentel 08 Jul
    It is absolutely shameful and disrespectful to the Late Adam Seef & his family that somebody had the the audacity to record on their cell phone & then make viral the sacrosanct funeral service conducted by Rabbi Avtzon.
    A cell phone on during a funeral...have we lost all sense of morality & decency ! May you rest in peace, dear Adam...you are in a better place.
  7. 1 Lindsey Richman 10 Jul
    Such a tragic and devastating loss of a beautiful young life with so much potential. The South African Jewish community can be a very critical and judgemental place to live if you don't fit the typical mould and I think that the Jewish community needs to do a lot of soul searching and work to make everyone feel more accepted.

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