On the morning of my birthday, July 4th, my dad stayed up late writing me a letter. The letter touched me very deeply, and when I called him later that morning we shared a wonderful conversation, confiding how proud we each were with each other.
I told him how I bought two iSight cameras, one for each of us, so that despite being at opposite ends of the country we'd be able to see each other and talk like we were in the same room. He told me that he'd ordered a slew of multicolor-led Google pens, a few shirts, and baseball caps, in honor of my starting there next month.
We talked about our writings, about visiting me when I get my apartment in Mountain View, and about using both his and my frequent flier miles to get Rachel and me plane tickets to visit Los Angeles in the next couple weekends.
After the call, I went to a BBQ at a friend's new house, followed by tremendous fireworks in downtown Pittsburgh. My Dad went to a party at my uncle's house in Malibu, where he had a great day with family and friends, staying late and driving a friend home late that evening before returning to his own home.
Some time early in the following morning, July 5th, 2003, he suffered a severe heart attack and passed away at his home.
At the memorial service the following Friday, Susie and I were the last people to speak after my mom, grandfather, cousins Steve, Craig, and Jill, and Dad's brother, my Uncle Alan. After the service, a handful of people asked if I could send them the text of the eulogy I gave:
"The last time I spoke to David was last Friday, on my birthday. Earlier in the day he wrote me a letter, and gave me a gift more important than he could possibly have known. I'd like to read it to you:
To My Son Kevin on his 30th Birthday
It's 5 a.m. on your 30th Birthday and I'm still pondering what present to honor you with. My first present, very carefully selected with your mother's help, was your birth name Kevin David Fox. Kevin because I wanted to do my best to provide you with a first name kids wouldn't be able to tease you about-- like they did to Dana Steven Fox who had to abandon Dana and retreat into Steven/Steve to escape. And because I wanted you to have a name that was substantial and more than ordinary, but not too unusual.
I'm not nearly as clear about why I held out for David. My deep sense is I somehow wanted you to know I would always do my best to be there with you and for you through all the scary and difficult times whenever and wherever they might envelope you.
Your plunge into sharing your "true voice" experiences on the verge of your 30th Birthday has inspired be to jump in after you. Here's a true voice poem I wrote five years ago.
This morning I went to my appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles to pick-up my personalized license plates. I didn't know why they were important to me.
While I waited for my name to be called, I was jarred by the appearance of scores of people without appointments waiting in dreary lines. They were on the short side and didn't stand out in any way. They were nothing more than ordinary, living out unremarkable lives.
Down deep I'm terrified of being ordinary. They seemed content.
The first time I felt the horror of ordinary gushing through my body came when I was seven. I was asleep in the basement room of our two-story up-side-down house when the cold water pipe hugging the ceiling above my bed burst at 3:00 a.m. I was frightened and confused. I screamed for mom and dad while I slapped at the light switch until the nightstand lamp snapped on.
The plumber arrived about an hour later. He was old and grizzly with knarled calloused hands, but he liked me. While he wrenched off the old lead pipes and wrenched on their shinny copper replacements, I asked him what it was like to be a plumber for a lifetime.
I was shocked by his answer. He said it was difficult for the first few years until he learned how to fix each different plumbing problem. But after that, he said it had been easy for the next 30 years because he just kept doing what he already knew how to do.
Right then I vowed never to be a plumber! To be doomed to a lifetime of fixing the same pipe problems over and over until I died with my knarled, calloused hands clutching my favorite wrench. How awful how ordinary. He didn't seem to mind.
I'm walking toward my car with the desperate hope the personalized plates my hands are wrapped around will some how, some way shield me from the terror of ordinary, and open my pipeline to salvation.
David Fox March, 1998
I feel much different today. If I write a new true voice poem the title that appeals to me is "Ordinary Joy." Further bulletins will follow in celebration of your 30th birth year.
I just grabbed "14,000 things to be happy about." off my bookshelf and opened it at random to pages 100-101: "...the intimacy of humor...flashlights that work...a bowl of tiny mandarin oranges...a breeze tiptoeing into the room, afraid to intrude...Timbuktu...opening stuck windows...steak fries...the splendor of fall...deep-set windowsills...electric morning coffee-maker...every seventh wave being a big one...the pleasure of water...V-formation of migrating geese...." And there are 13,984 more in Barbara Kipfer's book.
How many more known and yet to be known are there in my "book? or you book?" Could be bazillion, or even kabillion more! (I've been wanting to use bazillion and kabillion somehow somewhere for months, and now I have Ta Dah! (I've also been wanting to use Ta Dah!). This is such fun!
And thank you for adding a bunch from your book: "having the canola...the extra mile...following a dream...Winter's blankets of snow...cacophonous cicada...thundershowers before sunset...lush green grass...surreptitiously placing Easter eggs....the midnight moon...picnicking on the grass...following foot-deep footholes in the snow...fireflies flicking on and off, talking to each other...paper cut-outs...sneaking into IKEA...the last day of classes...snowscaped graveyards...dancing with abandon... ...all nighters...pockets...tandem skydiving...keyboards...cloverleaf intersections... kettle drums ...Mardi Gras beads...a kitten sleeping in your lap having mouse-chasing dreams........" and so many many more.What I am happiest about right now is you on your 30th Birthday TAH DAH!!!!
Love, hugs and so much more,
Dad derived his greatest happiness from finding joy, and bringing that joy to those around him.
He loved the immediate pleasure of teaching people something new, whether it was cribbage or kite-flying, computing or how to cook the perfect quesadilla.
He passionately shared the photographs he took at every opportunity, pulling out his powerbook in any free moment to give a personal tour of China, the Galapagos, or just a day at the beach. He loved sharing the beauty he saw in the world and in everyone he met.
Most importantly, Dad found his deepest satisfaction in helping people realize and pursue their own dreams. When he and I chose the name for his company 12 years ago, David wanted to keep it as open-ended as possible, reflecting his mission of helping people achieve their own goals -- in this instance, occupational goals -- hence the name "Professional Advancement Success Systems" or "PASS."
To David, the meaning of life is in the journey.
Dad never expected anyone to follow in his footsteps, but he hoped that they would walk in the same direction -- following their ambitions and dreams, and helping others to do the same.
My dad was the most supportive person I've ever known and, even after his passing, he's still supporting us, as we -- each and every one of us -- has been bettered by the impact he's had on our lives.
The finest memorial we can give to David is to keep on walking in his life's direction, to keep finding the joy and the beauty in life every day, and doubling that joy by selflessly sharing it with everyone we touch in our own lives.
Thanks for reading. As I've mentioned before, I have a lot more to say, and I'll be putting together a site of some of his writings, photos, and memories. I'll be talking about it here as it progresses. If you're just visiting Fury and aren't a regular reader, email me and I'll drop you a return email when there's more about David.
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