They say that in this new age of social media, things aren’t real until you put them on Facebook. In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing: pictures of weddings and babies and vacations become more real when you can see the “likes” and read all the comments from friends and family and that person you met at that party that time.
But there’s a less than good side, too. My cousin died Thursday night (California time; early Friday morning our time). And I spent most of the day actively not talking about it on Facebook because I refused to believe it was real. 37-year-old guys don’t just die, you know?
And I keep saying “my cousin,” but really, for all intents and purposes, he was my big brother. Better, really, because there was all of the hero worship—he was and still is the coolest guy I’ve ever met—and none of the complications. He never pulled my hair or called me names or teased me in a meanspirited way.
And that was the thing with Rodger: he didn’t know how to be meanspirited. He was one of the kindest, gentlest people ever. I’ve gotten some nice texts and messages from people who knew him and that’s what keeps being repeated: he was a nice guy.
Not in a boring way. He was actually the exact opposite of boring. He could tell you anything you wanted to know about music and he always knew the exact most fun thing to do at any given time. But he was the kind of person who would do anything to help you. And he could make you laugh, no matter what.
He’s the person you’d want to be with on the best day and on the worst day. That’s a rare thing.
The best thing about Rodger is that he was always up for an adventure. I envied that the most; I’m more the person who is always up for a nap. But he decided that he wanted to live in Jamaica…so he went. He just up and moved to a country where he didn’t know anyone. More than anything, I hope Marley gets that fearless spirit.
A few years ago when we were both still on the Eastern Shore, we instituted a tradition of having dinner together around Christmas, just the the two of us. It only lasted a few years because I moved to Baltimore and then he moved to California, but they were some of the best dinners ever. He believed in me years before I was able to start believing in myself.
The last time I saw him was about a year and a half ago. I went with my aunt and uncle to go visit him, his wife Monica and their daughter Marley in California. He and I had a little bit of time together just the two of us, and, of course, we were talking about Marley. I thought he was an amazing dad, and I told him so. And of course Rodger being Rodger, that was all he wanted to be: a great dad for Marley.
I’m sure if he could be asked, he would have preferred this post be called by the title of a Phish song. But I’m going with “The Dying of the Light,” a reference to the Dylan Thomas poem. Because as sad—as completely wrecked—as I am, I AM raging against the dying of the light.
I’m absolutely furious that Marley has to grow up without her dad and that I’ll never have another “cousin dinner” with Rodger. I’m furious that he doesn’t get to grow old with Monica or get to visit his parents in Florida.
I know that soon enough, I’ll focus on the good—the fact that I got to know him for almost my whole life up to this point. The fact that I got a wonderful example of how to be a genuinely nice person. And the fact that right now, he’s with his best friend and constant companion Samson and with my dad and our grandparents.
And until then, I’m just going to keep remembering Rodger’s example and love as fiercely as I can and be as kind as I can.