I’ve never had a blog, not an official one anyway. I’ve thought about it from time to time. The problem always seems to be that I get too caught up in the everyday happenings of life. I will forget things here and overlook things there. Days will pass and I will suddenly remember I wanted to write some of these things down. I shrug and say “oh well”. That’s what happens most of the time. I’ve always thought it would be really neat to look back in 10 years and see what the younger version of me was thinking, what I was going through, what I was talking about, what the world was like, what my work entailed, what my kids were like, what my beliefs were. All that stuff that makes up our life in the now. I always wonder if it changes over the course of days, months, years. I’m sure it does. I know my life at 31 is vastly different from my life at 21.
Blogs are often thought of as online diaries, if you will. That’s the way they started back when the term “blog” was the nerdier term “weblog”. It was mostly of a personal nature with stories from the writer’s life. Not really professional stuff. Some stuff not even worth reading if you didn’t really know them personally. But in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, and texting, it’s hard to find a place for a personal blog anymore. People share (mostly) short snippets of their lives, not the long form narratives of an old-school blog.
If you know me at all on a day-to-day basis, you know that I follow/subscribe to/read/inhale all sorts of informational sources. I follow people on Twitter (mostly for professional advice/direction). I follow friends and family on Facebook for the normal keep-in-touch moments. And yes, I even read blogs, although most of the blogs I subscribe to consist of professional writings and technology news. I do this to keep up to date on happenings and developments in my job space. On a normal check through all of these sources, I’m really searching for what can I use or what can I share with others from people who are sharing with me. I scan, I don’t read for enrichment. A shame, really.
This morning, I was perusing my Twitter feed per normal and I came across a link to an article entitled “The last post”. Not knowing what it meant, I clicked to the link and it brought me to a post from a writer’s personal blog. I read the post and was touched, but no more than usual. It was that way in which you read, almost as if you’re reading for reading’s sake. I wasn’t taking it in. In re-reading it, I realized something that I had missed the first time. The author of the post had died the previous night. This was, literally, his last post. He had made sure that this post (obviously prepared before his death) was posted the day after.
Derek K. Miller was a lot of things, as you can read about in his About Me page. To the community that I follow, he was a writer. Mostly a technology writer, with a slight slant toward science and the “geekiness” of things. That’s the kind of writer I always like to follow. I realized that I had missed out on something special, not knowing him or about him until his death. I will not spoil “The last post” for you. Read it for yourself. It’s scary, it’s sad, its touching, it’s beautiful.
After multiple readings of Derek’s last post, I moved on to the posts leading up it. Like I said, I didn’t know this guy. I wanted to find out more about him. I actually read them all in reverse chronological order, which means in a strange way, this person I never knew or never knew of, was getting “better” as I read. I read all the way back to a post about his workspace in 2002. This may sound mundane, but to a technology and computer nerd, your desk is a point of conversation. Sometimes even a point of pride. I read that workspace post and realized that I had come full-circle. These were the types of posts I read today.
So, I went back and read them all again, this time in chronological order. And this time, reading through the posts, things were not suspenseful. They were known. I knew what happened to Derek at the end. He died. Simple as that. What struck me was the way in which he chronicled his journey. From the workspace post to the post where he found out about the cancer to the post where he took part in his own living wake to “The last post”. Heartbreaking, yes. Sad, absolutely. But also, uplifting. This guy faced the fear of all fears, end of life, with his head held high and his priorities in the right place. He loved his job, he loved his family, he loved his friends, but most of all, he loved his life. All 41 years of it. Would he have liked to live more than 41 years? Sure. Who wouldn’t? But, his lot was 41 and he was making the best of it. In a word: Courageous.
I sit here now (in the early morning) thinking about my situation. The people above me (quite literally) are fast asleep, resting up for the day ahead. I can only hope that Caroline (6) and Brian (4) are happily dreaming away, in the hopes that they will share with me in the morning. (There’s really nothing like your baby boy telling you about his dreams in that not-quite articulate way. It makes me smile every time.) Caroline hugging her heart pillow and Brian with his arm around his stuffed puppy. They’re quite amazing little creatures, your kids.
Of course, neither the kids nor I would function quite the same without my wife Jayme. She’s my rock. I know it’s often used as a tired cliche, but I honestly do not know where (or what) I’d be without her. We’ve been together for 16 years. Yes, that’s more than half my life now. She’s my everything. I sometimes laugh (to myself, of course) at how amazingly patient she is. Sure, she’s patient with the kids (mothers always are, it seems). Where it shows up most, though, is with me. I can be a real PITA at times (and yes, i know that’s a shocker to some of you!). But she sticks with me. And I can’t love her more for that!
I apologize for the rambling. I didn’t really have a point to this post, to be perfectly honest with you. It was something I just had to write down. It was a story I thought you should know about.
I’m reminded of that old-timey newspaper writer guy you see in movies, hunched over the typewriter. You picture him coming up with the perfect “zing” thing to say at the end of a great article to wrap it all up in a nice little bow. Alas, I am not a writer, much less a good one. So, I’ll end with this:
Two stories in the same vein:
One involved a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006, and in August of 2007, he was given 3 to 6 months to live. In September 2007, he gave his now-famous lecture titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. At last count, this lecture has been viewed over 13 million times on YouTube. Randy Pausch died 10 months later, finally succumbing to the disease in late July 2008. He was 47.
The other was a much more private and obscure situation. It’s the story of a mysterious photographer who took a picture (a Polaroid, if you can beleve it) everyday for over 18 years. From March 31, 1979 to October 24, 1997, Jamie Livingston took at least one picture a day to chronicle his life. He called his project “Photo of the Day”. The reason the pictures stopped was that on October 25, 1997, Jamie Livingston died. He was 41.