Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Passing of the New Man for the New Age



emru@cam.org

I still remember this e-mail address, fifteen years after using it for the first time. In 1993, the World Wide Web as it was known, was a new phenomenon. In the basement of the bookstore where I worked,my fellow luddites spoke of the new techniology that would allow for communication from computer to computer, adding a sense of dynamism to what was viewed by most of us as a dull, static piece of office equipment. I would soon change jobs and have a chance to use this new tool, and Emru Townsend was the first person I knew to have his own e-mail account. We were never close friends, but I saw him on occasion until marriage and fatherhood pushed us closer to our families and closest friends, and further from people in our single male periphery who would be great to have a beer with.

I remember a night on a Bishop Street bar, when Emru and I spoke of past loves and current interests, and the remarkable anarchistic personality of Bugs Bunny. He was funny and brilliant, and his enthusiasm for the technological world helped to spread the word to those of us who saw it as the domain of cybergeeks, computer programmers, and isolated gamers. He made "tech" cool in a lot of ways, largely with his enthusiasm for the subject, which he expressed with candour, knowledge, and an understanding of his less well informed audience.


In the past year, I followed Emru's fight to receive a stem cell transplant closely, receiving weekly updates from a Facebook group run by his sister Tamu, someone I had also fallen out of touch with this decade. There was so much drama, as he beat the impossible odds to find an appropriate donor only to have Leukemia claim him last night at the age of 38. Thirty-eight. It is ridiculously unfair to take such a smart, funny, decent guy and loving father, not to mention husband, son and sister away from us. I think of his wife and child and all of the people he touched over his short life. I think of Tamu and all of her efforts, and the number of people who signed up (and still can) to be potential donors of stem cells because of the campaign "Heal Emru".
I also think of the Bush administration and the roadblocks they placed in the way of research in order to satisfy the evangelical zeal of many of their supporters. As they are ready to leave office, I hope only that their influence fades with the end of a disastrous legacy, while Emru's memory lives on. Thanks for the time, even if it was ever so brief.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

This is so such a sweet and loving piece about Emru... thank you.
This morning I'm culling old emails yet can't bear to remove anything Emru sent me over the past year - almost superstitiously - as if the very words on the page mean he's still here with us somewhere in the ether as always.
Again thanks for so eloquently saying what so many of us feel.