An Unedited Farewell
In all heroes’ journeys, the wise old mentor inevitably appears to give the hero magical gifts to help him through his slew of ordeals. This is par for the course in good story telling and the best real life stories always include them. Although I have been blessed with a variety of mentors in the various aspects of my life, Larry Durocher was my wise old mentor.
When I had the idea for THE 99 he was the first person I turned to. By then I had known him for 15 years, by the time of his death, 25. And in between he helped me build THE 99 brand part through his experience and part through his intuition. I knew him for a third of his life and for more than half of mine. Larry had great business advice when it came to THE 99 but like the lessons repeatedly imparted to us from our holy books through story telling, Larry had his own stories that he repeated over and over to me, sometimes knowingly and sometimes by reflex and it was up to me to extract the wisdom of what he said. These magical gifts included notions like “remember to never have too big an ego not to take out the garbage” to “remind yourself of how lucky you are to be with the woman you married every night before going to bed”.
Yes, Larry helped me build out the fictional universe of THE 99 for 10 years, but more importantly he helped me build my own real life universe over the last 25.
When I heard that Larry had weeks left to live I went through my days as if nothing had changed, as if each day was just another one. But at night, oh, at night everything changed. While I slept I had dreams in which I violently wept. I still do.
People often get a last kiss, a last hug, a last goodbye before a loved one’s death. I was thousands of miles away. The only intimate thing I could offer was to ask him for a last edit. He had edited everything I had ever written for the last ten years. It was through working on my essays that he was able to impart a lot of the lessons I learned. Sometimes, if you look closely enough you can see Larry’s nuggets of truth in the ink of my pen.
Larry never was able to edit that last piece, but I know that when I asked for it he felt the intimacy of my request. I did not expect him to be able to edit it while in his final days at a hospice, but I wanted to communicate to him what only he could understand.
And then the email came from his family with a subject line that the “big guy” was now with the “Big Guy”. How appropriate for as large as a character as he was, he always signed his name in lower case as if that would somehow average down his size. It never did. It never could.
Larry, it took my writing about your death for me to get that final piece of advice. In trying to write goodbye I finally understood. You were right. Sometimes, less is more.