RIP Rodney Slusher: Now His Watch Has Ended

Posted: November 13, 2018 by patricksponaugle in Blogging, Diary
Tags: ,

A few days ago, I received some sad news: Dr. Rodney Slusher had died.

Rodney was thirty-nine.

I’d never met Rodney in person, and I can’t say that we’d had a lot of interactions over the years, but news of his death was a shock. Not just because he was young, which he was. But because I had been looking forward to talking to him specifically in the year to come. I knew Rodney because of HBO’s television show Game of Thrones, and it feels wrong that he should be gone before the final season.

Okay, I’m probably messing this up as a tribute.

It feels wrong that he’s gone at all, regardless of the show.

Let me establish straight up that people are more important than things, and by things I definitely mean television. I’m not trying to measure the relative importance of a television show ending in relation to someone living a long and healthy life. In an ideal world, we all get to live long enough to see many wonderful things. But we don’t really live in an ideal world.

But I have a reason to talk about Game of Thrones and Rodney. His funeral took place on November 5th, 2018 in his home locale of Kentucky. I believe his friends and family in attendance did right by him, honoring his life and sharing their grief and extending comfort to one another.

But there is another community that did not attend that service, a community that Rodney belonged to that was spread out across the world. This community knew Rodney and hopefully should take the opportunity to do right by him as well. And it’s okay to do it in a very Game of Thrones way. I think Rodney, the Game of Thrones fan that he was, would appreciate this.

Rodney was one of the admins on a Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire Facebook group: the Ser Robert Strong Facebook group – an invitation-only group that encouraged discussion of both the show and the book series, discussions that could include spoilers.

Because of my Game of Thrones-centric essays, Rodney initially contacted me on Facebook in February of 2015, and invited me to join the Ser Robert Strong no-holds-barred group and he requested that I share my articles there. It was a charming request.

From then on, Rodney would occasionally message me with things that he had been thinking of in regards to the books, suggestions for my blog posts, a specific request that I write up something about Rhaegar’s son with Elia (poor, doomed Aegon) or share with me his belief that the lady Ashara Dayne faked her death. (I agree.)

Rodney introduced me (in a virtual way) to the other two admins of the group, Morten Larsen and Helen Cooney. The three of them ran a lively group and every year under their influence the group thrived, and not just during the seasons that the show was on. One of the compelling things about these fan communities is keeping everyone engaged and active, especially when the show is on hiatus. And they did just that.

It was great fun interacting with people in the group, and I was happy to share my weekly and every-other-weekly blog posts. (And attempt the insanely difficult but fun puzzles that Morten Larsen would craft for the group’s competitive enjoyment.)

Helen Cooney might not know this (she’ll learn it now at least) but Rodney once screencapped a message exchange he and Helen were having about me (in regards to my writing) and it was incredibly flattering. I might have blushed. Rodney, you scamp.

Morten reached out to me with the sad news of Rodney’s passing, and Helen brought up with me how helpless they both felt, that Rodney was gone and they didn’t really know how to react. I understood. Sometimes talking about your grief with real-life friends hits a barrier when the subject is someone that you’ve only known across the ether.

Rodney, Helen, and Morten had collaborated and interacted as friends for four years in managing this particular Game of Thrones group. That’s an absence that they are going to feel, and a loss that should be recognized. And I hope in a way that Rodney would feel appropriate and specific to his community of interest. So here goes.

In the third season of Game of Thrones, the survivors of Jeor Mormont’s expeditionary force were encamped at Craster’s Keep, trying to recover from their wounds and injuries sustained at the battle against wights at the Fist of the First Men and their arduous retreat to Craster’s. While at the wildling’s homestead, one of their injured brothers died, a man named Bannen.

The Night’s Watch built a pyre to cremate their fallen brother, and Jeor Mormont said the farewell.

His name was Bannen. A good man, good ranger. He came to us from –

Mormont didn’t know where Bannen was from, but Dolorous Edd was on hand to inform the Lord Commander that Bannen was from White Harbor.

– he came to us from White Harbor, and never failed in his duty. He kept his vows as best he could. He rode far, fought fiercely. We shall never see his like again. And now his watch has ended.

Game of Thrones has shown several funeral scenes, from the laying-in-state at the Great Sept, to the riverside boat-pyres of the Tullys, and the Ironborn consigning their dead to the Drowned God’s halls, but the tradition of the Night’s Watch cremations seems to carry the most significance. Obviously, it’s practical to cremate their dead and prevent them from being animated by White Walker necromancy, but cremation seems particularly a blessing to people who have served their time living on a freezing glacial Wall. And by the means of their funeral, they share warmth with their brothers one last time.

The words Mormont says near the end are particularly moving – we shall never see his like again. Much of the Night’s Watch ethos is a sacrifice of self. The men wear the same clothes, abandon their house names, great or small. The intent is for the men to be equal. But in death, this rule is set aside to highlight the individual. We shall never see his like again. That there was something unique and special about this person that should be recognized. Even if Jeor Mormont didn’t know the specifics of Bannen’s life before the Watch, Bannen had value and they were all diminished by his passing.

I don’t know much about Rodney. I didn’t grow up with him or know his family. We didn’t share personal details about each other – we most talked about A Song of Ice and Fire with each other, but I know there are those in the group that knew him far better, like Edd knowing that Bannen was from White Harbor. And even if I couldn’t tell you much about Rodney outside of the fan community that he had helped create, I can tell you that he was a good dude. He was Morten’s right hand man. He was Helen’s friend. They, and others, will miss him.

We shall never see his like again.

Social media can bring us together, and the downside is that we experience in some measure the loss when people are taken away. But the distance, the literal distance between people can make it difficult to properly express one’s grief and emotion, the sense of personal loss when it happens. So let’s share our warmth when we can.

Rest in Peace, Rodney. You’ll be missed.

  1. Ian Smith says:

    His life, and what he had ahead of him, considering his relatively young age, is the real loss and tragedy, but speaking as a fan of GOT, how cruel it is that he won’t see how the saga ends or read the final books. It feels unimportant in the bigger scheme of things but we make connections with these shows and movies just as some people do with sports and football teams etc. As a Blade Runner fan I feel blessed that I finally got to see the Final Cut back in 2007 after decades wondering if it would ever happen. Likewise that I also saw a sequel and that it actually turned out to be great. Sara Campbell never did (Sara was a BR fan who I never knew, but she was one of the first champions of the film and was behind Cityspeak, a fanzine for BR fans back when it was a cult/niche film only). Likewise the Australian film journalist John Brosnan wrote a glowing review of the film but passed before the film got it’s Final Cut. What life is, the people we know and love and what we experience is the real loss but the unfairness of connecting to these things and not seeing how they end or beloved teams not finally winning a trophy .. seems doubly unfair. Life sucks sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

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