Death, continued — Nigel McFarlane

Some time back, I noticed how many names appearing the obituaries I recognized, and compiled a short list of those who had passed. Unfortunately, well, too many people are dying, and besides, others have that game covered. Thus, the bar has now been raised above “name recognition”.

With one exception, every single person in my life who has died has played a mentoring role. (wan smile: dmd, you should make sure to look both ways before crossing the street…)

When I was six, my grandfather died. I remember him taking me on walks around his Maryland apartment, looking for pennies in parking lots and sidewalks.

Earlier this (school) year, my former Chemistry teacher, Woody Bass, died after a short battle with leukemia. I remember him sitting on the edge of his desk the day before Martin Luther King day and talking about, in the words of an eight-grade teacher of mine, “the man, the myth, and the legend”. Pointing out how significant his accomplishments were, and, implicitly, how petty most of our everyday concerns are. Accomplishments and flaws both, actually, as MLK was by no means a saint, but that doesn’t change the fact that he had a tremendous impact on the civil rights movement in this country. It was an extraordinarily moving talk, mainly because it was so apparent that Woody cared, and wanted us to care as well.
Woody: I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated what you did for us, but I never got the chance. I’m sorry.

And, now… earlier today, I heard that Nigel McFarlane has died. Nigel was the author of (among others) Rapid Application Development with Mozilla and, more recently, Firefox Hacks. In an amazing show of generosity, Nigel allowed me to contribute two hacks to the second book, after I told him I’d put his first book online for anyone to read for free. Thanks to him, you can now find my name in virtually any Borders or Barnes & Noble in the country… if you know where to look. It also gave me a unique peek into the rather messy, human process that is writing and publishing a book. If I ever end up writing one myself, it will be entirely thanks to him.
Nigel: I wanted to express my gratitude to you for your generosity, patience, guidance, and all-around humanity, and as before, now I won’t have the chance. I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner.

It is:
* difficult to maintain a Jedi-like nonchalance about death when it’s someone you felt a connection with.
* a slow process coming to grips with the fact that I’ll never see another email from
* vaguely worrisome that these are the terms I frame my state of mind in.
* unfortuante that I never got around to revealing my age to Nigel — I think he would’ve gotten a kick out of it.

Appropriate music:
Street Spirit (Fade Out), Hear You Me, and MLK, all by On The Rocks
Everything In Its Right Place – Radiohead
perhaps a song or two by Antony and the Johnsons.
… music for a funeral, I suppose.

There’s no one in town I know
You gave us some place to go.
I never said thank you for that.
I thought I might get one more chance.
What would you think of me now,
so lucky, so strong, so proud?
I never said thank you for that,
now I’ll never have a chance.
May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.

I still haven’t cried.


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