In this year, three people I know have died. One was a student. One was a friend from my childhood. Wednesday was Doctor G. Alec Stewart.
Like everyone else who knew him, I have stories upon stories of the man. Every interaction you had with him could become a story. Every moment he spent with you became a story, a noteworthy moment of life and interaction. True existential bliss. Most days, someone I knew would say something: they would share something he said or did. Minor things, a comment he made about lunch, him bumming a cigarette, or those big moments where something happens.
I was in love with Doctor Stewart and I made no move to hide this fact. I have countless stories that extol the extent of my love for this man. I’m selfish. I don’t want to share these stories. Most of them I want to keep to myself, hold within me and cherish them as mine. My moments. My experiences. Another part of me says that these are things other people will do in bounds. The combined forces of everyone he affected have better stories than I do, better things to share publicly.
But then I remember the last thing he ever said to me.
I’m not good with good-byes. I don’t understand them. I don’t try to or want to. They’re this separate thing I can happily live in the absence of. Instead, I write letters. I say all that I left unsaid, usually in awkward, overly in-depth ways with too much self-deprecating exposition. I wrote him a letter before I left Pittsburgh. We hugged and he made me promise I’d see him again before he let me go. We talked later, after he read it. He told me that some people are worthy of a good battle. He told me, in so many words, that how and what you think and feel is important in and of itself, without external vindication. He reminded me that thinking and feeling is enough. That sharing it is enough. That it will always be enough.
In our last communication he reminded me of this. He told me he still carried the letter with him. He signed off “Alec.”