Death of a High School Classmate

One of my high-school classmates was killed recently in a suicide bombing in the Islamic East. I don’t want to be too specific, because I’d rather not have him be identifiable from this post.

I had to look up photos of him on the internet to be sure I was remembering him right. It was strange, because he looked different – older, adult. Not how I remembered him. I watched a video of him talking, and his accent seemed to have changed – or possibly I’m not remembering it correctly in the first place. His voice was definitely deeper. In high school, he was a somewhat conflicted young man. We went to a very liberal school, but he had conservative and patriotic values. I remember arguing with him about women, something about how we should appreciate more of our female heroes, and he argued that there weren’t that many. I also think he may have gotten in trouble at some point for bringing a confederate flag to school.

My senior year, my gay friend apparently came across him on some sort of gay chat room. My friend confronted him about it, and apparently, my classmate said something to the effect that he was a gay man, and comfortable with his sexuality. I didn’t really hear anything about him after that, but in my mind, I sort of filed him away as one of those strange gay conservatives I hear about.

After looking him up after his death, however, he seems to have become a far more complicated individual. A scholar of some renown, (although, obviously still quite young) he had become a governmental advisor, travelled the world, and written a book. His ideas appeared to be well thought out, and unique. Possibly, some of the complexity of his adolescence led to a more thoroughly thought out intellectual standpoint, I’m not sure.

But, reading through my facebook posts was sort of empty.

This is very sad news.

Our prayers are with his family.

Shocking. Tragic.

They were so void, I’m not even completely sure I was remembering the right person – everything they said was so generic it could have been about anyone. They called him “brave” and “unique,” but whitewashed out some of the more interesting aspects of his personality. As I searched for him on the internet, I desperately wanted an answer to the question who was this person? What were his struggles, and his successes? What took him to the place where he finally died? Did he believe in heaven, hell? Was he afraid of dying? Did he fall in love?

I hope he fell in love.

I haven’t thought of this man in over ten years, and yet now I  desperately want to talk to him. When I was younger, I wanted to be seen. As I get older, and a few have started twinkling out, I’m starting to realize how important it is to see who these people really are while there’s still time. Who am I? Who was he? Who are you? It’s all connected, I think. We can never know the answer to one without knowing the answer to all.

Goodbye, and good luck.


Apparently, there are 4 things you should say to someone you care about who is dying.

  • Please forgive me
  • I forgive you
  • Thank you
  • I love you

When it came to say goodbye to my grandfather, I forgot all of those except for one. I love you.

He is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and hardly ever talks. When I visited him six months prior, he didn’t know who I was. My mother asked him if he remembered me, but he said no. Still, when he looked at me – perhaps it was just wishful thinking – but I sensed some recognition. I look somewhat like his sister did when she was my age, so maybe he didn’t know it was *me* per se, but had a sense of my familiarity.

This time, he was bed bound and slept most of the days. Sometimes he seemed to know people were around, and sometimes his eyes drifted into an invisible distance. My father has already lost both his parents, and told me he thought my grandfather was nearing the end. “When they get this way, it’s usually a matter of weeks.” We were visiting from America, so this was probably the last time I would see him alive.

My final day there, I had a few minutes alone with him right before I left. He was awake and looking out the window, and I walked around to be in his sight. I couldn’t talk loudly, because I was on the verge of crying, so I bent over his bed to bring my face close to his, and put my hand on his.

“It’s time for me to go now,” I whispered.

“Oh, ok”

“I just wanted to tell you, that I love you very much, and I wish you the best with whatever comes next.” Then, I kissed him on the forehead.

He opened his mouth as if to respond, but no words came out. So, he looked right at me, and smiled. I think I smiled back, I’m not sure.

Then, his eyes drifted away again. I looked back at him one last time as I walked out the door – and that is probably the last image I will ever have of my grandpa. Laying in bed, blue eyes vacant as he stared at things I could not see. I hope those things were beautiful.