Yesterday Poop Strong, brainchild of 31-year old Arizona State University graduate student Arijit Guha posted this two-line update:
“Arijit Guha — rabble rouser, do-gooder, mustache enthusiast — died on Friday, March 22, 2013, after a spirited, graceful, and inspirational bout with cancer.”
And his wife said the following through a statement on Facebook: “He lived his life, even up to the very end, with warmth, humor, and positivity, and his boundless capacity for hope and love gives me strength. He will be greatly missed, but I know that his beauty, goodness, and desire to make the world a better place will continue on through all of the people and lives he has touched.”
In his 31 years in this world, Guha was an inspiration and a role-model to those of us who became his fans after he deftly engaged the executive of Aetna health insurance, his provider, into a coverage debate this past summer via his Twitter handle, @Poop_Strong.
And he made headlines again in August, when he was refused permission to board a Delta flight after he wore a satirical T-shirt.
To those of us following his online campaign to raise funds for his medical bills, the painful news of his passing was not unexpected.
And then again, it was.
As Joan Didion writes in The Year of Magical Thinking, “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death.”
And so we grieve.
And we celebrate his life.
And we celebrate his passion. And his anger. His anger at enduring a health system that made the last months of his life a moment where he was forced to divide his focus between caring for himself and his loved ones – and ensuring that his illness didn’t bankrupt his family. His anger at living in a world where the color of a person can determine whether his or her choice of attire is comical or threatening.
Thank you for your anger, Arijit Guha. Thank you for your passion. May your name endure forever.
To honor Arijit’s memory make a contribution to his undergraduate alma mater, Carleton College, support Hospice of the Valley, which provided palliative care to Arijit, or donate to University of Arizona Cancer Center’s Patient Assistance Fund. Click here for more details.