My father died yesterday of respiratory failure due to sarcoidosis. I am still under the influence of that soul novocaine right now -- the feeling that everything is just the same. I can even say "my father is dead" out loud... nothing. My emotions have taken a holiday.
Why am I writing this here? For pity? Sympathy? I know only one noder in person, through some classes we took together at UIUC. The rest of you are collections of writeups to me, through which I can decipher a bit of your personalities, but even those may not be real. So why do I write here? Do I walk down the street, greeting everyone I pass with "Good morning, my father died yesterday, how are you?"
Maybe I should. My aunt says she wants to shout it out to the whole world, to every person she passes. "Hello, did you know John Lindsey? No? Well, you should have, and here's why..."
My father was not a genius. He didn't make any groundbreaking discovery, or rescue a litter of kittens from a burning building. He only finished junior college, and worked as a field support engineer in the telecommunications industry. He was a jack of all trades, something of which I have become too.
But my father read to us when we were young. He set me up with my first computer, and challenged me to learn everything about it despite the fact that we had no manuals and only a collection of buggy BASIC programs and DOS batch files to learn from. He could be damned annoying, blasting music at 8:00am on a Saturday so we would get up to do our chores, but he tried to teach us responsibility through his actions.
He was a photographer and a fisherman, a boater and a model railroading enthusiast; but he rarely had time for those things because he was our plumber, electrician, carpenter, and landscaper too, and that's just for starters. I did not learn nearly enough from him. I always thought there would be more time.
My father was fifty-one years old when he died. His sarcoidosis was probably exacerbated by the fact that he refused to go on a steroid regimen, because he hated what they did to a person's body. We always knew this might be the eventual result of his disease, but everybody expected we would have another ten or twenty years, at the least, before this. My mother has been robbed of the chance to retire and grow old with him, and that is the cruelest joke of it all.
My parents own a cabin up in the North Woods of Wisconsin. We will travel there this summer to scatter his cremains over the lake, where my mother will eventually be too. That cabin will never leave our family; for generations to come, it will be our refuge.
So why am I writing this right now, for a bunch of strangers? Not for pity, or sympathy, or angst, or any of these things. I am writing this to let everyone know who he was, and what an impact he has made upon this Earth. He may not have been famous, but there will be over two hundred friends and family at his wake, and that is the mark of a great man.
Update 3/14: It looks like I underestimated... by a lot. When we counted the signatures in the guest book, we found that over five hundred people attended that wake, and when you add people that did not sign, we estimate the total number at over seven hundred. We are told that people stood in line for over an hour, outside in the falling snow. The line stretched out the door and down the block; people had to park three blocks away. The wake was supposed to run from 2:00pm to 8:00pm; the last people did not leave until 10:30pm.
Now that is the mark of a great man.