Death of a mentor, actually two
The last couple of weeks - despite the celebration that gamefest 2008 provided naturally around the accomplishments and the hopes of my team - have been bittersweet.
Dr. Cote was my high school Advanced Placement European history teacher. She was one of those teachers whose factual knowledge was the least of what you learned from her. During the time that I learned all about the age of Enlightenment (and had to role play Voltaire along with my peers playing other philosophers at a dinner she held called "How to Raise a Child"...) her husband died. She kept teaching. We'd kept up while I was in college and when I visited the Boston area, I'd try to stop in and see her.
A lot of what I really learned from Dr. Cote was personal and more about the doing than the saying. What's it like to lose your partner and keep going? What's it like to be an older woman working on your second career that really is your dream? What's it like to have the world in front of you, waiting to be savored, with endless fascinating stories of history?
She had 9x the energy I did, and she was always going overseas. This, on a high school teacher's salary with occasional proctoring work. Her house was filled with things from her travels - art, music, books. Her emails to me were always breathless, run-on sentences.
Dr. Cote was a polite older woman who would curse like a sailor in Boston traffic, and she had this inexplicable poodle fascination. She was always doing, doing, doing - and doing it for other people. She recognized when things got tough and just kept going. If there was anyone counting folks who live it vivid, she was one.
Her death these last few weeks had me pondering what I had learned from her and also, what things I might do better about remembering about having a full life. Then of course, Friday, Randy Pausch dies.
I saw "The Last Lecture" lecture like many did - on the Internet. It swept through the XNA team, actually, when we were first planning all the stuff that would become the community games pipeline.
I bought and read Pausch's book, but never met the guy. Instead, throughout shipping the XNA Community Games beta, late at night, I would go back to his ongoing news page. To see "the box scores", celebrate the moments of fame (he went back to speak to Carnegie Mellon students at graduation, spoke to a number of political bodies, got a bit part in the Star Trek movie) and try to understand how he kept having fun in the middle of fighting for his life.
Reading between the lines about what he was not saying (chemo is not fun and I have no idea how he was able to joke about it except maybe, why not? he had nothing to lose..). He made the most of his last months of life, knowing he was ill but also that was the way he was, and Dr. Cote made the most of her months of life, just because she was Dr. Cote and unstoppable until the last.
Maybe that's the key ...unstoppable until the last.
Live it vivid!