A man I knew died yesterday. I can’t say that I liked him very much, or even that I knew him at all. Scott Campbell was a biology teacher at my high school and I never gave him much thought or consideration over the years since I graduated. It wasn’t that I harbored any ill will. I just didn’t even think of him.
A recent connection through Facebook brought me up to speed with his life. While he was alone in most of his photos, he was always smiling, that awkward, dorky smile that I remember. He had moved to Denver where he taught and lived his life as a single man. He traveled the world. He loved his sister, Donna. And he had a brain tumor.
On July 19th, he underwent brain surgery. I’ve taken the liberty of copying and pasting some of his Facebook wall posts verbatim because I think they demonstrate his optimism in the face of abject despair.
July 24: “covld use a visitor”
July 30: “3-5 weeks in rehab”
August 2: “i need visits”
August 3: “Rehab isway hard”
August 5: “Wishiknew when iwil be able to go home”
August 7: “Has no ijdea whereimgoing after i leaverehaab”
August 15: “Recovery is tough enouggW/o the Addedfinancial stress”
August 20: “Looks like im goinginto a a skilled nursing facility next wk”
August 23: “100dgree fever!”
September 9: “Stillinthe hnoshosbut hopetogetOusoon”
September 10: “STANDUPTOCBNCER!”
September 14: “KMovingtoa newnursing/rehabhome”
On November 4th, his sister posted under his account: “I am reading all your letters to him . . . He can no longer speak but acknowledges our presence . . .”
And on Sunday, he died. I haven’t been able to get his death out of my head all day. Our paths barely crossed, our interactions 20 years ago were minor at best, and his departure from this world will have no direct or indirect effect on anything that happens for the rest of my life, but his passing fills me with no small measure of sadness.
The reason, I think, that Scott’s death has affected me so much is because it seemed so goddamn lonely. This is supposition and extrapolation on my part, of course, but in this giant theater of the Internet, our perceptions fuel our motivations, our fears, and our dreams. I won’t make apologies for imagining a world of stark loneliness, no partner with whom he shared his life, no progeny on whom he doted, and only a sister, sparing him moments of her existing life. I envision a man, wasting away in a bed, knowing that his time may be limited, bathed in the sickly glow of a laptop monitor as his support system is represented by ones and zeroes, completely and utterly alone.
I wish I could be positive and hopeful and just say that Scott, you will be mourned by those who love you, you will be missed by those whose lives you touched, and you will be remembered by those who knew you. I wish that I could just simply hope that your last moments were filled with love and happiness and warmth, but the dark part of my soul insists that they weren’t. It whispers to me that your last moments were filled with unyielding loneliness. And that terrifies me. For you. For everyone. For myself.