Dying Young

I woke up to news on Facebook that an acquaintance in Seattle had died.

Now, when I say acquaintance, I mean that I could pick him out as a familiar face in a bar and frequently saw him tagged in social media posts.  We really were not friends, so news of his death only impacted me inasmuch as it affected friends of mine and generated some thoughts on the life and legacy of my favorite person.  I couldn’t tell you if he had a boyfriend – or more likely in Seattle, was part of a thruple or just had many FWBs – or what his favorite food was.  I know he worked at Boeing and I know he was a softball player.  That’s it.

He was 7 months younger than me.

In typical Chris-fashion, my deeper thoughts were interrupted by what might be considered inappropriate laugher.  The Facebook post listed his life as 8/29/68- 10/7/15 instead of today’s actual date, 11/7/15.  I wasn’t all grammar-nazi about the error, but I did freak out thinking, “Fuck!  It’s my sister’s birthday!”  Then, when I realized that I had already forgotten her birthday a month ago, recognized the error and chuckled at my reaction.

Oh, one more thing I know about him, apparently every one of my Facebook friends in Seattle was his friend.

It seems he experienced cardiac arrest last Sunday, which resulted in a coma.

Since then, I’ve seen enough vaguebook posts to know something was wrong and certainly not looking like it was going to be right again.

This made me both sad and annoyed.  I’m sympathetic enough to feel my friends’ loss.  I’m me, though, so my inner grumpy, old man made occasional appearances over the course of a very difficult week for my friends as the posts kept rolling in on my feed and I judged whether the posts I was reading were coming from a true friend of his or a Kardashian-friend of his who was trying to get attention or look like a better friend than they were in reality for him.

The Kesha song Die Young just came on.  My Sonos is either super attuned to my moods or psychotic.  Obviously the only possibilities.

This phenomenon I have witnessed over the last week gives me mixed feelings.

On the one hand, this fella clearly had a lot of friends and acquaintances who are remembering him and have shared memories of him on Facebook and sent good wishes his way over the last week of his life.  Lots of great pictures shared.  His electronic, two-dimensional life looked like a full existence.  His organs are being donated and his legacy grows.  The comments I see trend toward the “this is just like him, always helping others” type of thing.

Sidebar: organ donation…ugh.  Back in my school days, I worked night shift at a hospital and witnessed a few people whose lives had ended prematurely having their organs harvested.  Man, I support the concept…but seeing the actual process was an eye-opener, figuratively and literally, since corneas are part of the harvest.  Corneas, liver, heart, kidneys, skin, long bones.  Man…it was those last two that really got me.  It makes total sense, skin for people in need of grafts.  Long bones for people in need of marrow – but seeing those long leg bones replace by broomsticks to maintain the structural integrity of the body was, well…ugh-inducing.  I guess now we are even harvesting tissue from the mouth, based on the recent oral surgery experiences of some friends and family.

Back to the hands.

So, on the other hand, this phenomenon is also is a potential example of the social culture in Seattle that bothered me when I lived there.  Well, let’s call it the best possible example of it, the worst possible example being the Seattle Freeze.  So many friends and acquaintances seems like an embarrassment of social wealth…but what I frequently experienced living there was a lot of social connections but not a lot of true depth in the relationships which made me view a lot of the people I encountered in Seattle as paupers.

Sonos update:  We Found Love just came on.  Seriously?  I’m talking about superficial connections with no depth and a song that includes the line (over and over, I might add, grumpily) “We found love in a hopeless place” plays.  That’s it.  My Sonos is controlled by Hannibal Lecter.

Maybe I wasn’t patient enough in Seattle.  I like to bemoan the fact that I came away from Seattle with a lot of acquaintances and connections with co-workers, but not a lot of significant connections.  Y’know…friends.  Maybe those take more time to develop?  Then I remember that I lived there 9 years and wonder, how the fuck much longer was I supposed to give to this process?  It’s all shituational.  His experience was different than mine, just like mine was different than each of the other 600,000 people that live in the core of Seattle.

All of the actual factuals versus my grumpy aspersions aside, I have to acknowledge that I am touched by the legacy this man leaves behind.

Not just the organ donations and Seattle socialites emoting all over Facebook for the past week.

There was a toast organized in his honor last night when the decision was made to remove his life support.  It was at a local Seattle bar, but encouraged people who couldn’t attend to raise a glass wherever they happened to be.  It seemed to include a Fireball stipulation, so I am assuming that was his shot of choice.  It was at 9:00, because his softball number – and I presume, favorite number – was 9, which he wore for years if not decades of play on many different teams.

The social outpouring I had the honor of being on the fringe of last night was amazing.

People at the bar in Seattle.

People at home in Seattle after a long day.

People in adjacent cities and states that knew him.

People on vacation in Mexico.

People living in Australia and New Zealand.

People who hated Fireball and choked one down for his memory or continued strength to fight for a little more life.

People who were alone last night.

People who interrupted their dinners out with friends for a shot of Fireball.

People who just literally couldn’t even with the whole Fireball concept and raised an alternate salute.

Fat kids, skinny kids, kids that climb on rocks.

That outpouring of emotion and support for a life prematurely winding down proves his pudding in my eyes.  Anyone can emote on social media, send a generic “hugs” statement or the equivalent for someone’s struggle before moving on with their scrolling.  But to stop and make an effort to honor one’s life in such a visible manner really demonstrates the impact that this one person had – physically and emotionally – on so many other people.

Even though my life was never touched by his life, I have to admit that my life was certainly touched by his death.

Like I said, I’ve seen organ harvests before and witnessing that event left me with a hollow feeling about a life ending a vital organ at a time.

This experience provided me with the missing degrees of that life choice.  The people whose “gift of life” I had seen previously were complete strangers to me, as were the recipients of their final generosity.  This time, I still won’t know the recipients of his organs – just as they will not know him.  But this time, know people who knew him.  I know many of them well enough to know they lost someone important, someone who was as genuine as the outpouring of emotion on Facebook suggests.

Someone who’s life was not a platitude, but an existence who’s absence will create more than a social vacuum in the lives of people I value.  For that, I’m honoring him not with a shot, rather, here on my humble little blog so that I – and maybe a few other people – can find the reminder or inspiration to make our lives matter by living a life of happiness and substance for those around us daily because you really never know how long you have.

Dying Young