On this date two years ago, it was my turn to share a devotional or meditative thought with my colleagues before the start of the school day. Since it was (and is) my eldest daughter’s birthday, I shared the story of her surprise arrival five years earlier. It was three weeks before her due date and my wife’s water broke during a routine exam with the doctor that morning. We went over to the hospital, and at 4:51 pm, little Emma made her big debut.
I shared that story with my coworkers because I was very excited about my daughter’s birthday, but also because the story was a good illustration of the theme of “Do Hard Things” that my principal had selected for us teachers. He challenged us to not take the easy way out and to not back down from the challenges the school year would bring. In the five years since my daughter’s birth, my wife and I had faced many challenges on many fronts, and we had (to the best of our ability) done the “hard things” necessary to provide for our family. And in doing so, I could look back at – and share with my colleagues – many examples for reaping the benefits of doing the “hard things.”
Later that day two years ago, shortly after we had finished dinner, we got a call from my parents that my sister had had her baby that day, five years almost to the minute after Emma was born. We were so excited to tell her that she had received a new baby cousin as a birthday present.
Two years ago today, not more than a 90-minute drive from my house, other calls were being made to spread the word of the day’s tragic news.
It wasn’t until about six months later that I was even first introduced to David Foster Wallace’s works. My wife’s book club was reading selections from Consider the Lobster and the title essay from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. She thought I would enjoy reading the essays, so she passed them off to me when she was finished. By the end of the first chapter/section of “A Supposedly Fun Thing…” I was hooked.
This date will forever hold insurmountable significance for me; the celebration of new life, the mourning of a loss. But in spite of the sadness I feel over the loss of the voice of a generation (or at least an important voice in our generation), I can’t help but celebrate. I celebrate the gift I’ve been given in my beautiful daughter. I celebrate the gift she was given in having a cousin share her birthday. And I celebrate the life and work of a man I never knew, but who has changed my life and writing forever.
I miss you Dave, even though I never met you. I hope that you have found peace and rest.