Mr. Lovett died last week.
That is sad enough. Sadder is that I did not hear about it till this afternoon.
It was time. He was 87. He had Parkinson's. His brain was calcifying and his memory was all but gone, along with most of his other means of engaging the world. His death is a mercy. He had been so alive, so vibrant, so much a child of God and utterly without guile. A friend once said of him--and he meant it as an insult, I think, but I took it as blessing and benediction--"He is like a little boy with a checkbook." Yes, in many ways. He had plenty of money. He was preternaturally inclined to share. And he did. With many.
I dedicated Praying for Dear Life to him. He showed me incredible kindness and an almost unspeakable support when he had reason to do neither. He paid for my therapy when I nearly lost my mind. He loved me in spite of myself. I owe him a debt I can never repay.
I was going to say all that at his funeral. He told me many times he wanted me to do the funeral, or part of it anyway. Alas. His dear wife forgot to call me or write. I only heard a week after the fact. He had it all written down, she said when at last I got her email. I had seen a copy of his funeral plans and my name was on them--at least last time I saw them. Just as well.
He always wanted me to call him Bill, or even, he said, Daddy Bill. He was in fact the same age as my dad. But I could not bring myself to call him either thing. The latter because it seemed too close in a way and the former because it also seemed too close, too familiar, if in another way. So I always called him Mr. Lovett.
Always will, and with almost hushed humility and gratitude. And great love.