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    Brett Foster Goes Out Singing

    I was blogging today about art, especially about poetry and about grief, but that post was interrupted by the news of an old friend's death. My own thoughts about grief can wait. I will still be thinking them tomorrow. Today I give way to the beautiful, kind-hearted poet and scholar Brett Foster, who has passed out of this world. He was a better man than I have ever been, and I will miss him.

    I will leave the best words to Brett himself, and to his poem "Tongue Is the Pen," written during his illness, which is more eloquent than I could ever manage. His poem begins with a citation to Isiah 43, and opens:

    I am making all things new! Or am trying to,
    being so surprised to be one of those guys
    who may be dying early. This is yet one more
    earthen declaration, uttered through a better
    prophet’s more durable mouth ...

    I cannot tell you how beautiful a friend Brett was, or how much I treasured him. I can only leave you to read his own words. But I will close with the end of Brett's poem:

    And speaking of things overheard, you heard right:
    if I have to go out, I am going to go out singing.


    My heart goes out to you, Doc.  Such a great loss for you, and for everyone.   A rising poet with so much left to say.

    But that last line, "If I have to go out, I am going to go out singing."   There is his legacy.

    Best wishes, Doc.  I never know what to say about these permanent losses.  Celebrate your friend and hang in there.

    Forgive me if I'm overreaching here, and if I am I apologize with sincerity in advance. It seems clear that his loss is somewhat wrapped in a cocoon of sadness that you have been struggling with recently. What's worse, you appear to find yourself engaged in compartmentalization out of necessity; each pain finding its place even as they all hurt. And holding yourself together, as the world continues impossibly around you.

    You're working your way through, as we all do. Here's to you, with love.

    Ah, barefooted. I can't fool you. Yes, I have been sad lately, and there have been other losses. I will be sad for a while yet; I have more to lose. I will say more on the blog soon. Yesterday was going to be the beginning of that, but the news about Brett interrupted.

    But I don't want to fold Brett's death into the general grief. He was a marvelous individual. I am sad to lose him, because of who he was. And I am so, so sad for his wife and especially for his children.

    My wife, who also loved Brett very much, came home yesterday stricken with grief. We both knew Brett before we knew each other; after all, he introduced us. But even that detail, that Brett had introduced me to my wife, was small next to how kind and generous Brett was.

    Brett is one of those people who meant an enormous amount even to people who only got to see him once or twice a year, or once ever two or three years. My Facebook feed for the last two days has been an outpouring of love and grief, as people  testified to how much they treasured him.

    He was perhaps the kindest person I have ever known, and I've known some exceptional people. Everyone speaks today of his kindness and his generosity. He made friends everywhere he went, and kept them, because to meet Brett was to be befriended.

    One of his friends at Wheaton College has written a better remembrance than I can manage, which is here:

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