R.I.P. Danny Taylor 1987-2009
It isn't important how I met him and that's no one else's business. What is important is that I was privileged to "meet" and know him as much as time and his failing health would allow.
Taking a break from compiling literary agent listings, I checked my email and discovered through a mutual friend that my new friend Danny Taylor passed away in the wee hours of this morning of a malignant, inoperable brain tumor. In the last few weeks alone, his father had lost an aunt, his wife and, this morning, his 22 year-old son. I cannot even imagine what that poor man is going through but most men I know would fall face-first on the grass and surrender to the ants.
People like Danny and I, for several reasons, don't exist in real life because we're not supposed to. I've long held that the world can no more tolerate the purely good any more than it can a vacuum. Not that I'm purely good. Through my actions both in the Navy and in the civilian world, I've destroyed and distressed families on my own improbable and pot-holed journey to the Pearly Gates. Yet I'm also as capable of acts of extraordinary kindness as I am those of inexplicable stupidity. As with Danny, you'll never know who or what will get my liveliest attention and compassion.
I caught Danny in the weeds of cyberspace at a time when he was about to make the same colossal blunder that I just had the previous month. Only three of my readers know what that colossal blunder is but what's gratifying for me to know is that I kept Danny from making it. I wanted to cultivate a friendship with him that was cultural and cerebral with a generous occasional dose of friendship and humanity thrown in.
He was a sweet, openly gay kid who faced his impending doom with a typically British stiff upper lip, justifying the horrid chemotherapy he was undergoing until the end, regardless of how it knocked him out, because it gave him more time on earth. We spoke about philosophy (he was a published Ruskin scholar at Oxford), my novel American Zen (which he never got the chance to finish) and life and death in both the abstract and in the particular. The letter to which I'd responded and posted here at Pottersville was the penultimate one he'd ever written me, the last being his permission for me to post it.
He was one of the sweetest, most inoffensive creatures on this planet, far more understanding and forgiving of the vagaries and vicissitudes of life than this part time hellion and ogre that vents anger and hatred on this blog. Yet throughout it all, he kept reassuring me that he would finish my novel (he printed it up for ease of perusal) and he was already much more at peace with his imminent death than most of us (myself included) are with life. He treated death not as an enemy but as an unwelcome yet inevitable guest at his table. Even throughout the howling maelstrom that claimed one relative after another, Danny simultaneously fought death yet accepted it and died in his sleep early this morning.
He was the ultimate anachronism. People like Danny Taylor aren't supposed to live in real life nor are they supposed to die like this.