This may be the hardest thing I’ll ever write, and I know no way to soften it. Dan passed away Friday evening. He was very quiet and comfortable, and was surrounded by family and friends.
Dan passed away with the same level of intention with which he had lived his life. He didn’t want this phase of his illness to last long, and so he made sure it didn’t. Once his final decline began, it proceeded swiftly. He bore it all with strength and grace to the end. As his ability to care for himself faded away, he allowed us to care for him, helped us as much as he could, and in his own way he made sure that we knew he appreciated our help. Although he slept most of the time from Tuesday onward, he was still present. He lit up every time Dillon entered the room, and graced us with the occasional smile, wink, wave, or well-timed eyebrow raise. He couldn’t speak much toward the end, and even swallowing was sometimes a significant effort, but he let us know every chance he could that he was still there with us. He enjoyed visiting with people, and liked to sit upright and listen to the conversations around him.
He was very excited that his good friend Steve made the drive down from Willits to be with him. The last time they had seen each other was when Dan went to Willits for Thanksgiving with Dillon, Mary (Ma), Jimmy, and Dillon’s friend Alexa. While he was in Willits for Thanksgiving, Dan asked Robin if she would come down and be with him at the end, and he was grateful to have her there. It was a huge comfort to all of us that Dan was in no pain for the last week. Although moving or being moved was uncomfortable for him near the end, the discomfort didn’t last long. He was quickly soothed with loving, reassuring words, gentle hand holding, and head stroking. He slept long and well, ate his favorite ice cream, and listened patiently as we talked his ear off.
We are immensely comforted by the love coming to us from all directions. And rest assured that Dan felt the same love from you that we are feeling now. I know he drew the same comfort from it. When I was looking for something on his computer the other day, I found a document titled “my thoughts.” When I opened it up, I found this quote from author Jana Richman: “But fear of death has never been my problem. To me, life, not death, holds the promise of misery. When life is lived as a problem to be solved, death offers the ultimate resolution, the release of all fears, and a moment of pure peace.” I, and anyone who knew him, knew that Dan did not see life as a source of misery or a problem to be solved. I remember the day we found this quote, and what it meant to him was simply this: that he had no fear of death, and that with it, he would be released from the various physical pains of the last two years.
This process, from the very first signs of Dan’s symptoms two months before his diagnosis, has been an exercise in raw humanity. And this exercise, this journey, continues. We are surrounded by friends, and blessed by the experience of knowing and loving Dan, and are grateful for the opportunity to carry his spirit forward. He lives on, within and through us.
Dan did not want a formal memorial service or any sort of ceremony. So to honor and celebrate this remarkable man, we are throwing a party in the Donovan style at the home of our lovely friends Deb and Dave this Saturday, December 22, starting at 2 p.m. Their address is 1820 Derby Street in Berkeley, CA, 94703. We will likely go into the evening, and if the weather is nice enough, I’m sure there will be a fire in the backyard. We are also planning to have a celebration on Dan’s birthday, May 1.
This Saturday we will be sharing photos and memories to compile in an album. Please bring any photos you’d like to share. Also, we will provide materials for and invite people to compose notes, letters, poems, telegrams, drawings, or whatever they’d like, to Dan. We’ll take these missives to next year’s Burning Man and place them at the Temple, a sanctuary long at the center of Dan’s spirituality, and one of his favorite places on Earth.
Dan was filled with love and gratitude for his friends, who brought him so much joy. He would have been happy to hear our house filled with as much loving conversation and laughter as it has been in the last couple of days. Even in your sadness, remember that the best way to honor Dan is to laugh, enjoy life, bring that joy to others, and above all, be yourself.
For those of you who sent checks to help cover Dan’s health insurance deductible, we will not be cashing them. For those of you who sent money through PayPal, with your kind permission we will gratefully use that money to help pay for Dan’s cremation. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the love, well-wishes, good vibes, and support in all its myriad forms.
Bon voyage, Captain. I can’t wait to hear about all your adventures when I see you again.
Love and gratitude,
Kaki (with my trusty literary partner in scribe, Calum)