My loving husband of 40 years, co-author, lifetime companion, friend, confidant and the kindest person to all, left this world on October 20, 2015. He died with grace, courage, and at peace.
I write this with a grieving heart. One day my Dan appeared fine. A week later, he was gone from an aggressive form of leukemia. As you can imagine our families and I suffer from shock, disbelief and deadening grief. After a couple of months, I am just beginning to realize my loss, but I have a long way to go. Still, I write this piece on what Dan meant to all of us about how he lived his life helping others and making people feel a little better.
Dan was born in Pasadena, California on June 29, 1941 to a Scottish father and an English mother. He had an older brother and two younger sisters. He was a curious and lovable kid who loved to talk and tell stories in school. He carried this attribute throughout his life.
He talked with anybody at any time about anything. He was not afraid to talk about taboo subjects such as death and dying. Much of Dan’s working career, he was awarded job training grant money from Los Angeles County. He became acquainted with an obscure custodian at one of the county’s administrative offices. In a few years, that “obscure” custodian rose through the ranks and became director of the department where Dan got funding for his job training programs! This wonderful story reflects Dan’s people-loving philosophy. He found something to like, and learn, from each person he met, and often complimented them on what he learned.
Throughout his career, Dan taught special education for both elementary and college, earning a Ph.D. from UCLA in Special Education at age 36. He took his job-training program wherever it was needed. He was way ahead of other job trainers by teaching word processing and computer skills long before the internet craze, social media, Facebook, and Twitter. During the 1990s, he knew that the 21 century would demand these skills.
His favorite position was his last at the Van Ness Alcohol and Drug Abuse Recovery House in Hollywood, California. He took residents on weekly field trips to beaches, public parks, or the local mountains. If newly sober residents are going to stay clean and sober, Dan felt they needed to experience fun in sobriety and see nature beyond the big city of drugs and street life. Dan knew what newly sober people face by his own struggles with drugs and alcohol.
His trademark known to all was his sense of humor. People often commented that he was always smiling and made others smile and feel happy too. He rarely told jokes but he would size up the situation and turn it into a laughable moment. He didn’t know the “punch line” until he got halfway into his humorous stories. When my old-world, Italian mother, not known for much laughter, told Dan he had a humorous gift, now that was an accomplishment!
He was the most spiritual person I knew. He could talk for hours about the spiritual, metaphysical or the concrete with skill, knowledge, and insight. He rarely talked about the past or the future, believed that all we have is right now. Likewise, he was not in a rush (or on a mission) to get somewhere or do something–he feared that he might miss the moment.
His spiritual connections originated from many sources: books and mentors, like his first husband, Sy, and his first Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Alan. Both gentlemen were wise and older, and knew the ways of life. To Dan’s credit, he listened and applied much of what Sy and Allan recommended. They were two of Dan’s most special and significant mentors. Dan often recalled Sy and Allan everytime we had a problem and often asked what would Sy or Allan do? Dan’s involvement with the 12-step program spanned six decades with 48 years of sobriety. He also volunteered as a counselor at the Counseling Center at Westwood (where we met in 1975). The encapsulation of all of his previous spiritual based experiences, he began practicing Tai Chi for the last 15 years and in the last six years of his life, he followed Buddhist teaching and volunteered at the Palm Springs’ Dharmachakra Buddhist Center. Dan made these spiritual connections and practices look easy and seamless with everyday living. He studied, practiced and experienced those connections with all of the above organizations for most of his life. Over 100 people attended Dan’s celebration of life ceremony and 15-20 friends and family spoke of how Dan touched their lives. Our nephew, Tod, recorded a YouTube audio of what was spoken about Dan with pictures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9ltUxlQqWU
I knew I wanted Dan for the rest of my life, soon after I met him at a personal growth workshop in Big Bear, California in 1975. I still remember the spiritual snap that told me Dan was the one. I recognized the goodness in Dan during my own critical and lost youthful adult years. All through our 40 years together, Dan and I knew how fortunate we were to have each other. I treasure our work and our life together reflected in our book, Late Bloomer Millionaires.
Yes, I will be grieving for many months. Nevertheless, as baseball great, Lou Gehrig, said in his famous farewell speech to his fans at Yankee Stadium in 1939, “…today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” To have Dan in my life 24/7 for 40 years means the same as what Lou Gehrig said, “I may have been giving a bad rap, but I have a lot to live for,” in the face of Gehrig’s death two years later from his namesake disease. Those of us who knew Dan can take strength from his many gifts he freely gave to humanity—we have a lot to live for, and give, too.