A grade school classmate of mine died this year of a heart attack. I found out about it from some of our other classmates on Facebook. I see old photos of him there, as my classmates periodically share them, and so I’ve reflected on his death a few times now. There’s a discussion group dedicated to memories of him. I was invited to join at some point.
I never did, because I had nothing positive to say about him. He was never anything but an asshole to me, frankly. Near as I could tell in grade school, nothing made him happier than ridiculing other people. Naturally, most people are usually pretty different after grade school, and I didn’t ever even see him again. I’m sure he had some redeeming qualities, and I sort of regret that I never got to see them. And judging solely on the comments in this Facebook discussion group, he was a very different person to lots of other people.
He was actually the second person from our class (of just 25 or so students) to die. The first, another Mike by coincidence, succumbed to cancer of some sort, three or four years ago. I remember being a bit more struck by the tragedy then, not even because he was the first or we were all that much younger, but because he didn’t have an easy life at all. He joined our class when he repeated the third grade, never did well in school, and didn’t have any friends in our little class. He seemed to have to steal his happiness and self esteem when no one was watching. I hope his life got better than that; it’s hard to imagine how it wouldn’t, really.
I couldn’t help but compare them when I heard about Mike D. I’m sure Mike S wouldn’t have had an outpouring like this. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, maybe D learned kindness and S was psychotic, and it’s a testament to how poorly I knew either of them. But at face value it sure seems like a depressing confirmation of everything grade school taught me about human nature.