Courage doesn't seem a strong enough word for the blogger who called himself Brainhell. Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in early 2004, he documented his descent into near-total disability with ruthless detail, sardonic wit, keen intelligence and enormous heart. (The tagline for his blog was, "What if they discovered a disease and nobody wanted it?" One of his sidebars was cheerfully titled, "So, You're Going to Die!")
BH leaves behind an adored wife and two young children, a devoted sister (nom de blog of Ratty), a bunch of good old friends, and a bereft cloud of blogosphere buddies. Some left almost daily comments, especially as his posts became more labored and fragmentary; others, like me, mostly lurked, rooted, and prayed for a mystery man who shared with us his longest journey. None of us who knew him only through the blog had ever seen his face until after his death. He looks exactly as I pictured him--a soulful smart-ass with more guts than I can even imagine. His blog is possibly the greatest testament to the human spirit that the Internet has yet produced, a real-time defiant joy ride to the edge of life's cliff. BH died on February 2; my own courage having lapsed, I couldn't face the worsening news in recent weeks and didn't find out until I checked in tonight.
A friend of mine who doesn't share my passion for the Internet once asked, of blogging and message boards and the like, "Is that the thing where you talk to strangers?"
No. No, it's not.