My wife texted me at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, the day the Patriots were scheduled to be honored at The White House.

Aaron Hernandez killed himself, she wrote.

Holy sh-t, I wrote back. I was leaving for work and didn’t really process the information. My initial thought was: Who cares? He was doing life in prison without the possibility parole, despite being acquitted for two other murders five days before. It seemed like strange timing, but otherwise, I was indifferent.

Then it began to process. My first reaction was to argue righteously that the man was a cold-blooded murderer and the world was a better place without Aaron Hernandez in it, but it soon started to shift. His suicide began to haunt my thoughts.

Here’s the thing: I can’t dismiss the fact that Aaron Hernandez was a human being. I know he was likely a sociopath and a terrible person, but I can’t erase the images reported of the man putting soap on the floor of his jail cell in case he lost his nerve; I can’t erase the images of a man, sentenced to life in jail without parole, looking at his fiancée and daughter and tearing up before blowing his daughter a kiss; I can’t erase the human being inside of the monster.

Hernandez will always be the blight in a finely-tuned New England football machine, a blip on Bill Belichick’s otherwise stellar radar. But the man who brought us Tom Brady also brought us Aaron Hernandez, and more evidence is amounting that the Patriots knew much more than they may have initially revealed.

Stories are surfacing now about Hernandez’s sexuality and a note left to his prison lover. Again, my initial thought: Who cares? The last calendar I looked at indicated it was 2017. Are we seriously still concerned about who these men lie down beside? If Hernandez were gay or bisexual, how does this exactly affect the narrative?

If you are overly concerned about Hernandez’s sexuality then maybe there’s a mirror that needs to be turned inward.

Hernandez, by his own admittance, was a cold-blooded murderer. But make no mistake, his life and his death was a colossal waste of talent and a waste of many other human lives. We shouldn’t be mourning Hernandez, rather Odin Lloyd and his loved ones, Hernandez’s 4 year-old daughter, and the families of the people he was acquitted for allegedly killing.

I don’t have answers or explanations. I write an occasional Red Sox column here at Dirty Water Sports and don’t proclaim to have any grand wisdom. But I’m a human being and Aaron Hernandez’s story made me feel…

Well, sick. And sad. And human. While I won’t go so far as to label his death a tragedy, I would say it was tragic.    

[Author note: I wrote a column on the Aaron Hernandez story for Dirty Water when he was originally arrested in 2013. If nothing else, this serves as an interesting and horrific time capsule.]

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Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009), Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press, 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing, 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014). Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press in 2017. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media. For more information, please visit his website: