Absolution

A classmate of mine died just the other day. And he’s resting with a little more peace thanks to social media.

I wouldn’t have known about his passing otherwise, and little did I know that the tiny degree of contact we shared recently would have made any difference.

We all grow up

I did most of my “formative years” in southern Idaho. The landscape there shaped my thoughts, the people shaped my speech pattern, and my classmates for a long time shaped my self-image.

I was smaller than my classmates, for a good reason: I was more than a year-and-a-half younger than any of them. My 9th-grade year in Twin Falls was my last, and I was a 13-year-old in a land of 15-year-olds. I had always been smaller and less-physically developed, and the target of bullying. Lots of bullying. After years of taking the abuse, I was right on the verge of overcoming it and breaking through. Then we moved to Alabama and I had to start over — but that’s another story.

The bullying took just about any form you could imagine. A little bit of physical mongering – a lot of name calling – and a great deal of intimidation. I was blessed with very intelligent and creative classmates, who saddled me with the worst bullying nickname of all time. (I-suck Pig-nuts.) I laugh about it now, because any future attempts to make fun of my name fall woefully short.

Kids are kids, and if it weren’t for all of that, I wouldn’t be who I am today. The physical abuse wasn’t that bad. The worst was the day Scott C. kicked me where it counts. Hard. Not quite “go to the hospital” hard, but it was “spent the day with an ice pack” hard.

Two paths diverged

The next year I was in Alabama. I visited Idaho twice in the next three years, and my classmates had grown up quite a bit. So had I. My last trip in 1986, I was made an honorary Bruin by a small cabal of kids who didn’t have the authority to do so. But many of them were ones who had grown up, and instead of picking on me were well on their way into adulthood (in a world where adulthood has become defined by age instead of actual maturity.) I saw Scott C. briefly then, and he rarely entered my thoughts afterward.

It turns out that Scott would go on to battle a number of demons in the last 22 years. He openly shared his struggles with bad choices and addictions, and he proved himself a generous enough person that he had a strong support network to cheer him on.

I know all of this because I connected with him on Facebook a couple of months ago. I started fleshing out my junior high years, and was getting a kick out of seeing where everyone ended up. Scott looked older, and looked as though he’d aged a little more than most. Hard living will do that, but he always had a smile. Every picture I’ve seen of him has a smile that jumps out of the pixels and into the room. It was the same smile he had back then.

Three weeks ago, Scott fell and hit his head. He had a concussion and some other related injuries. I’m told that he developed some pretty severe complications while he was in the hospital, and an infection ravaged his body. Given the toll his previous living had done to his organs, things were not looking good at all. Two days ago the doctors told his family that his liver and kidneys had completely shut down. Early Thursday morning, not long after signing the Do Not Resuscitate order, Scott passed on.

Friends everywhere

Scott did not go alone. His family and his closest friends were there. He was aware and mostly comfortable to the end, I am told. Debbie was one of Scott’s closest friends and was there at the very end. She did an admirable job of keeping everyone informed.

She also told me something important.

Over the years, she and Scott had talked often about the things he’d done. She heard it all. Last week, she told me that Scott wasn’t proud of the way he treated people when he was young, but that I was the one person he wished he could apologize to more than any other. Maybe it was for the kick. Maybe that’s just the only incident that comes to mind. Maybe he was behind more than I ever knew. I just doesn’t matter.

I told her that there was no need for him to apologize, that I had let go of any anger or resentment a long time ago, and he needed to know that. I wouldn’t be who I am without the experiences that shaped me. None of us truly triumph until we conquer those ghosts. You can’t help being affected by the things that happen to you in life, but you can make a conscious choice to not be defined by them.

Scott’s past choices might have caught up with him physically, but he was determined that he would define his legacy, and not cede that job to his past actions.

Long-distance lessons

Scott’s Facebook page is still up. His status message still reads “Scott is resting in peace.”

That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a death notification on Facebook. But there’s much more to that message.

I can’t speak for him, or Debbie or anyone else. But I know for a fact he and his family were checking his Facebook from the hospital bed. And I know they saw the messages of support coming in. And I know that if it weren’t for Facebook, he wouldn’t have passed with the knowledge that he got the absolution he wanted from Isuck Pignuts.

Yeah, this social media stuff can be pretty stupid sometimes. Check that, a lot of the time. But when real people connect in ways that are truly meaningful and lasting, you can’t ignore the power. People use phones for stupid things too, but a call from the right person can change your life.

Scott – and to all from Scott’s family who read this – you brought a lot of joy to a large body of people.

Peace out, Scott.  Peace out…

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Comments

  1. Steph Brooks says:

    Profound message.

    I absolutely agree. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ike, this is the strongest blog post I’ve ever read and I actually have tears in my eyes right now. It was beautifully written. I’m at a loss for any more words that can even justify how strong this was. wow. thankyou.

  3. Beautifully written for many, many reasons.

  4. Wow.

  5. And Because of social networking, Your story, and Scott’s Legacy will continue to help and heal. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great lesson in life – on many counts.

  7. Jim Isbell says:

    Amen.

    I hope someone along the way sees that there can be redemption for past indiscretions and, sometimes, forgiveness from the ones affected by such cruelty and immaturity.

    I am glad you had the chance to make amends for the past and that your friend was able to put to rest that particular devil that had been tormenting him.

    Peace be with you, Scott, always.

    “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
    -Mahatma Gandhi

  8. Ike- This post rocked my socks off this morning. I too lost a friend from highschool this week. I learned about her death through Facebook and also learned just how much she will be missed. Unfortunetly Vickie overdosed herself on Thanksgiving, but I would imagine her family is taking great comfort reading how many people treasured her life through the comments left on facebook. Thanks for this post. It was just what I needed to hear today.

  9. Ike,

    This is a beautiful piece of writing and a completely compelling story. I am touched and blessed to know you and through you this story. Thank you.

  10. Wow. This post brought tears to my eyes, what a great story and life lesson to share. It is refreshing to come across posts like this, and writers like yourself–truly humble. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Thank you for sharing. It is good to have perspective in this crazy mixed-up world. Very well said and mighty big of you.

  12. I have chills. Beautifully written & thought provoking…. with or without the social media, we are all connected. This is another brilliant example of how we spend a life time getting over our childhood- good, bad or indifferent. I hope you’re old mate rests in peace. Well done.

  13. Wow Ike! I needed a hankie for that beautiful post – one of the best I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.

    How great that your friend got to make amends and that you accepted so graciously. You rock Ike!

  14. Wonderful post, Ike. Touching and moving. Shows how social media can be useful beyond the daily silliness we see in the fishbowl. Thank you.

  15. Ike, Thank you sharing. It means a lot, on many levels, and more than you will ever know.

  16. Our family too experienced a loss of a young person by suicide this past summer. Facebook played a good and bad role in how friends and family coped with the loss. It really was a defining moment for me in the power of this medium.

  17. Thanks for sharing that.

    I was trying to explain to someone the other day why he should consider going to his high school reunion. He said that he had nothing in common with those people then, so why would he now?
    I couldn’t find the words to explain well enough that I have learned over the years that life-experiences shape us all. What a sad life it would be if we all had to stay the people we were from 14 to 18.

    In my own experience, many people I would have thought i’d never want to see were people I actually had much in common with due to events that had shaped them after high school. Yes, some are still those I have nothing in common with… but there are amazing exceptions.

    So now that we have the internet and things like classmates, reunion, facebook, myspace, twitter and the like, we don’t have to wait to see if someone shows up to a reunion… we can reconnect and see those changes from afar.

    It’s a good thing.

    May Scott rest in peace.

  18. Ike – Yes, we all do grow up. Thank God.

    Thanks for posting this: What a powerful bit of writing. Thank you.

  19. Wow. That’s…wow.

    Tears. In my eyes.

  20. Ike,

    As usual, you are eloquent and open. Your post touched me in such a way that I felt compelled to write a post of my own about it: http://tinyurl.com/5u3tf5

    All the best,

    Mark

  21. Obit.

  22. Ike,

    Thank you for sharing. It’s a beautifully written post — both powerful and moving.

    Here’s to social media and second chances…

  23. Margi Walker Hansen says:

    Isaac-
    I’m so glad I found this blog entry. You’re farther along in forgivness than I am. I was on the opposite side of the spectrum, if you remember, and was(still am-so be it)fat. There are a few members of TFHS Class of 86 I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive. I don’t remember ever being the butt of Scott C., but many of his friends-oh yes. That group was fierce. I’m so shocked and pleased the way many of us have grown up and changed for the better, including Scott. I was so sorry for him, and his family. FaceBook has been a really good finding for me.

    I never realized you were that much younger than all of us. Smart guy! I’m agreeing with Ed Loder, I always wondered what happened to you, you were just gone…. Did you finish 9th grade at O’Leary?

    Take care
    Margi

  24. Yes, I finished at O’Leary and promptly moved to Alabama.

    It’s culture shock in both directions.

  25. Forgiveness. Forgiveness heals us and helps us move forward, I believe it does more for the one doing the forgiving than the one who is asking for it. It seems like you were over this long before he was. I’m glad it was on his mind and hope it made him a better person. However, sometimes, people need to let go of things and get on with their lives and let everyone else get on with theirs as well.

  26. Evan Keller says:

    Profoundly moving.

  27. Glad I saw Steve Olson’s Tweet about this.

  28. That’s a very deep blog post, and I find it amazing that Facebook was used by his family to convey the sad news and track the condolence messages…I’m sure they gave them some comfort. Thanks for sharing the story.

  29. Six degrees of separation may divide us but they also connect us, in ways we may not always anticipate.

    Just being alive in this world, we influence others. Guess it’s time we all think about what kind of influence we want that to be, next time someone riles us up real good, or next time we want to hurry past another living person who is clearly suffering.

    Ike, I salute your courage to write this. You’ve touched a lot of people today ~ from your heart.

    We could use more connections like this. If everyone reading this takes away one way to show up in life with a little more kindness or generosity, Scott’s life will have even more meaning.

    Funny how that works sometimes.

    We don’t always get to know.

    But we do get to decide what it’s going to be.

    I know I will be making some even more mindful choices from now on.

    Thanks, Ike.

  30. What a beautiful use for social media. Thank you for sharing your story, thank you for sharing Scott’s story. You are both in my prayers.

  31. That is nice. Here’s a profit (OK, and holiday inspiration, so two-for-one) opp: Someone should compile about 100 one-page stories like this from people who’ve had similar experiences (I know I have). It *could* be an “All FB” thing (then you sell it to FB to promo themselves) or it could, maybe, be separated into, say .. five mini pieces . . divided by: What? Type of social media used? Nature of reconnection / connection / answer finding experience? . . . Intriguing.

  32. Okay, you’ve got me thinking back to people from my own past that I had issues with while growing up in Utah.

    My throat is a bit tight, and the eyes are burning … I know that I can’t change the past but I can re-frame the way I see it today. More charitably, I hope.

    I now have a better understanding of the social media I’ve made fun of so often.

    Thanks for the insights, as always.

  33. I always think back to my regrets, and fail to see the best times. It would be easy therefore to constantly ponder the mistakes and the regrets and punish myself for those sad times in my life. To seek revenge or punishment to the countless people who have wronged me in someway.

    Then I read something profound like this and realize why we need forgiveness; not just to make ourselves feel better, but to allow those people with similar regrets to obtain peace. Letting go releases the fear, hate and bitterness, and allows the universe to heal.

    Ike, save this essay someplace on paper so you never loose it. You deserve to read it again someday, as do your children. There’s a lot of wisdom here and I thank you again for making me take some time to reflect on my life and my relationships.

    I’m glad I found you.

    M.

  34. Good job! This is a true life’s lesson that I, among many, need to take to heart. Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. Andre Natta says:

    RT @ikepigott: Occamtude for you ===> Absolution http://occamsrazr.com/2008/12/05/absolution/

  2. Nice post from @ikepiggot on ‘absolution’ and blends in a strong use case for Social Media. http://occamsrazr.com/2008/12/05/absolution/

  3. LewisG says:

    If you read but one story today, I urge you to make it Absolution by Ike Pigott @ikepigott http://snurl.com/7anwe

  4. RT @LisaHoffmann: Take a few minutes to read this heartfelt post from @ikepigott. Social media at its finest: http://snurl.com/7b365

  5. Franca says:

    The emotional power of social network connections via @IkePigott “Absolution” http://occamsrazr.com/2008/12/05/absolution/

  6. RT @larissagaston http://is.gd/am9W. Strangely #andyasks question today about your defining moment in social media. I had a similar story.