Personal

Sometimes, Everything Does Change: Or, Getting Evicted From Your Life

My brother was diagnosed with brain cancer exactly two years ago today: November 4, 2014. For those who follow politics, that was Election Day — a clear Tuesday here in the suburbs of New York. Autumn had given us one of those perfectly crisp mornings you were sure would open up to a beautiful afternoon. It seemed a rare gift: After all, I was off from work that day. (Ah, freedom can be so sweet — sweetest when it’s taken from you.) My plans were to vote in the late morning, have a relaxing lunch, then spend the rest of the afternoon at the mall.

Of course, my best laid plans went awry somewhere around 11 a.m. My mother called to tell me that Matt had collapsed in his house before going to work. The headaches that had plagued him for several weeks had grown more severe. An ambulance took him to a local hospital, where scans revealed a large tumor that lay deep inside his brain.

Maybe one day I’ll tell you the whole story. There was no happy ending — just a protracted lurch toward this precise moment, as I sit here typing another eulogy, the latest but not the last attempt to conform to this ruthless reality. Look, I know that “everything changed” is a banality. But how else can I say it? On November 3, 2014, my family and I had a life we will never have again. It’s as though we were all abruptly evicted by a capricious repo man, and forced to sleep in the fields behind our former homes as others moved in. I am very slowly assimilating to this lonely hinterland.

 

UPDATE: I have cross-posted this to Medium. It’s available here.

Andrew Sullivan: How the Internet Broke Me

This long essay by Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine, detailing how his obsessive Internet use wrecked his health and life, is a searing commentary on the dehumanizing effects of pervasive technology. It’s also a wake-up call even to moderate tech hounds and social-media users: Have you realized just how comprehensively technology molds your life? How different your life would be without it? How miserably addicted you are? Do you even have a life?

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R.I.P. Matthew Wargas, 1978-2016

My heart is as broken as it will ever be. My oldest brother, Matthew Wargas, has died after a 21-month war with brain cancer. He slowly stopped breathing as he was surrounded by his closest family and friends — in many ways the most beautiful way to go, but also the most haunting for those who remain.

There are two components of this tragedy I’ll won’t soon get over. The first is that I’ll never see my brother again, which fact has led to some bizarre calculations in my mind. For instance, if I live to age 80, a bit more than the average male life expectancy in the United States, I will have gone nearly half a century without seeing Matt. (How will I feel about him then? Will I remember his voice?) And from now until that time, I will have lived far longer without him in my life than when he was in it.

The second component is the sense of injustice: how a 38-year-old man, a decorated police officer and the kind father of three small children, was robbed of everything he had earned through his superior virtue and character. It all changed so suddenly, and one of the tortures of losing a family member to cancer is recalling how enchantedly unaware you were, before your loved one’s diagnosis, of how little time he actually had left. When I put it in these terms, the sadness is so overwhelming I feel physically constrained by it, to the point of claustrophobia as I lie awake these past few nights.

I am comforted by how bravely he fought, and how steadfastly he resisted giving in to bitterness and resentment. But if I am to be honest, I must admit this is only a small comfort.

As time goes on, I shall be writing more about my brother. For now, I’ll just echo what Nehru said after the death of Gandhi: “the light has gone out of our lives.”

Matthew R. Wargas, January 16, 1978 – August 12, 2016

In Memory of Arnaud de Borchgrave

In my first piece for The American Interest, I write about the amazing career of the late Arnaud de Borchgrave, whom I had the privilege of meeting about a year before his death. Arnaud was one of the last practitioners of a dead age of journalism we desperately need back:

When he talked, he peered at you, his head cocked down slightly so that his eyes, set behind wire-rimmed spectacles, seemed fixed behind rather than on you. It was not a creepy or uncomfortable stare; it was simply the confident gaze of a man born and cultivated in a very different era. I suspect Arnaud was always aware, and always proud, that he was becoming more of an anachronism as the years wore on.

Read the whole thing here.

Rest in peace, Arnaud. Thanks for returning my e-mail.