Memorial to Scott Swanson

I am just now home from my visit to see Scott. Before going up to see him I knew this would likely be the last time I would see him on earth. I have never had to face the death of anyone my age, let alone my roommate and best friend from high school. It was so difficult to make arrangements to visit. I had a knot in my stomach every time I thought about it.

And then I arrived on Friday. I hadn’t seen Scott in a while --too long. I am sure many of you could say the same. I was convinced that it was something I had done or said to upset him that I had not heard from him in a while. But I can tell you after a weekend of many people saying the same thing (and reading many a Facebook post), I can assure you that a lot of us are living with false guilt. You see, Scott’s health has been declining over the last few years. It may have been hard for us to see it, but Scott knew he was losing the battle with his body. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a person with a stronger spirit, but his body was failing him. The more his health slowed him down and restricted him, the less we all saw of him. But it never was an issue of him loving any of us less.

I arrived in a room full of people, something that continued non-stop throughout the weekend. In a pattern that would repeat as people would visit, Scott told me he was thinking about leaving..., leaving earth. He knew his body was running out of strength. He was in pain. He was not sure how much more he could take. But the more people visited him, I could tell the less sure he was about leaving us. He had fought his whole life. He had beaten the odds time and time again. He wanted to stay with all of us. Every person who came by and every message and phone call was so meaningful and encouraging to Scott, the more he wanted to fight. But his body was just too weak.

The days were a blur, but one of the most touching visits was from Stephanie Pace Marshall, IMSA’s Founding President. Showing caring only second to his mother Gail, Stephanie sat with Scott and held his hand and talked with him for such a long time. I cannot express adequately in words how her caring for him touched me. If there ever was a picture of two people who loved IMSA with everything they had…

There were visits from alumni from the class of ’89 through the class of ’08. Valerie had brought a beautiful prayer quilt that her family had made for Scott that brightened our days. Julia Stamberger sustained us with ready to eat meals from her company (see Michele Funk kept us moving with her MP3 player and speakers and her beautiful daughter Ella. Tony Nuval took some wonderful pictures (that he needs to post online soon!). Todd Groner Kopriva kept the Canada Dry Ginger Ale cold and flowing for Scott. Sendhil Revuluri ‘90 and his wife Venu Gupta (Naperville North alumna) made us laugh about who had the better math team.  Michael Peil helped arrange all the things that just needed to get done. Joe Shidle (the younger) ran out for whatever was needed, and was there for Scott and Gail long before most of us knew we needed to be there too. Joe Shidle (the elder) found an old Club Pseudo video tape for us to watch to make us all feel really old. Greg Brown provided a place for many of us from out of town to stay, as well as visiting Scott before I got there. I know there are so many more visits and calls that made the time speed by each day.

The IMSA alumni contingent was not the only group turning out for Scott. We were amazed all weekend as we met people from his grade school (ACS) or from the many jobs Scott has held through the years.  We also received good news from Lance Pressl, the President of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, on progress that had been made on legislation for innovation in Illinois. This was just one of many initiatives that Scott so passionately supported. We also visited with IMSA staff, both past and present, as well as ACS teachers who stopped by.

To make a very long story short, I want each of you to know how much Scott’s family and friends appreciated all your kind words and deeds, prayers and support. I have never stood by someone as they left this world before, but we were surrounded by so much love that in that moment when he left us, we were able to celebrate Scott’s life. Don’t get me wrong –we all have shed many tears through this weekend and we all know there are more tears to come as feel the loss of Scott in our lives, but in that moment, we pictured Scott finally being able to walk free of all his burdens, his fist raised triumphantly in the air! In that last moment, we were able to feel joy and not sorrow, thanks to all of you and your love and support. Before we left the hospital, we were reading and sharing the notes you all were leaving on Facebook as we toasted Scott. We sang and danced and laughed and celebrated for Scott all through the night.

So we ask you to put aside thoughts of grief and loss for a time, and join us in celebrating Scott’s life. We are planning an event at the place that Scott loved so much, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora. We want to gather at 2pm on Saturday, January 16. At 3pm we will have time to recognize Scott. We are finalizing the format and will have more details shortly. Scott’s wall on Facebook will be updated as details emerge. We are hoping to be able to provide some childcare options, and intend to record the celebration for those who cannot join us in person.

Scott’s family continues to read Scott’s wall on Facebook, so please keep posting your thoughts and pictures and stories.

And Scott, I never got a good chance to say goodbye through all the craziness in the hospital, but you have always and ever will be my best friend. You made me a better person. It will take a lifetime to try to match the legacy you are leaving behind. Take it easy brother…

Mike Rudzinski '90
Scott's IMSA roommate