I first read Alice’s short statement Monday evening, around 7 PM: “Many of you have already heard this very sad news that I now choose to share here. My brother, Børre Ludvigsen, passed away early this morning. He died peacefully in his sleep, at home; to our complete shock and disbelief. We will miss him dearly.”
What?! He had responded to something I wrote, just the afternoon before. I had posted the prior article from Levantium with a short comment on the failure of American leadership in the midst of this pandemic. With typical brevity, Børre had written: “Whether you want it or not.”
And now he was gone. It took a minute for Alice’s words to sink in. “My brother, Børre Ludvigsen, passed away early this morning.” I choked out the words to my wife as I began weeping. Grieving. It’s hard to describe the intensity of that grief now without resorting to trite, melodramatic language. It possessed me for the rest of the evening, even as I pecked out this short farewell:
Monday, March 30, 2020 at 7:51 PM CST…
What to write? What to say? I only heard a few minutes ago and the tears have not stopped. Børre, I’m sure you’d scold me for my foolish sentimentality and remind me that life is just a passing, sexually-transmitted disease that ultimately fells us all, kings and paupers alike. Your life was more than that, my friend. I am a better person for being a small, faraway part of it. You picked me up, more than once, when everything seemed dark and hopeless. May your next adventure be as grand as this one was. My thoughts are with your wife and child tonight, and your dear sister Alice. Peace to you all…
Condolences began pouring in, the usual sympathies, thoughts and prayers stuff about MY loss. I’m not complaining, they were all well-meaning, but Børre’s wife and child and sister had lost so much more… I needed to explain WHY Børre’s passing had left such a raw, gaping hole in so many lives, so I interrupted (rather rudely, I’m afraid) the flow of comments with this:
Monday, March 30, 2020 at 9:29 PM CST…
Most of you are probably wondering, what the fuck?!
There is a fraternity, a deep bond, among generations of international expats who shared the uncommon experience of attending the American Community School (ACS) in Beirut, especially before Lebanon’s 15-year civil war began in 1975. Børre and I became especially close over the last few years, even though we were years (maybe decades) apart while at ACS. His death was completely unexpected, although looking back over our last year’s intermittent conversations, maybe it shouldn’t have been. Even Norwegians don’t live forever and the Levantine sun eventually takes its due… Goodbye, old friend.
Børre, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
The next morning, I jumped over to the ACS alumni page on Facebook and offered this explanation and a final farewell:
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 8:01 AM
Remembering Børre Ludvigsen… I’m not sure who is represented here, pre-war, post-war, or both, but let’s not forget that long before Facebook was around, Børre created an email list that stitched together a fraternity of scattered, mostly expat ACS alumni. For years we shared memories, talked about philosophy and politics and religion, and closely followed each new war that Lebanon inevitably stumbled into. That email list (I remember it well – hiof.no) gradually faded into disuse as social media took over. It saddened Børre at first, but he eventually surrendered to the inevitable and was a prolific contributor here on Facebook. His was a keen and irreverent wit and he was my friend. He is sorely missed.
…all to say that were it not for Børre’s work all those years ago, how many of us would be gathered here today? We are family, in so many ways that others who did not share the ACS experience and the grand adventure of growing up in Lebanon can never understand. We are family, and for that we owe so much to the work and memory of Børre Ludvigsen. Adieu, old friend. You will not be forgotten.
PS — this photo of Børre was copped from his Facebook profile pic (he had changed it on August 9, 2019). I’m sure he’d be quite peeved at me for using it without his permission. He was a stickler for crediting sources as much as possible and it was at his insistence that I began doing so, as much as possible, a few years after starting Levantium…