Saturday, June 1, 2024


Read at the Memorial Service Saturday, June 1, 2024 

A Letter to Daniel James Herzing

4.8.77 - 5.8.24

May 28, 2024


This is the first time I have written your name and followed it with a comma, to write to you, simply, and it hurts to realize that your eyes won’t receive my words. Your eyes have closed forever. I am stunned that you are caught in this moment in time; you will always be as you are. The days to come will not age you. They will age my pain. The numbering of the calendar will persist with the ache in my bones and those sharp hurting moments—a deep plunge into grief when all I can do is cry out to you. It all feels insufferable yet I keep on, I move forward, I do my best. And that is what you would want for me. For all of us.

I recently read a letter written in 1913 by Rilke to his dear friend Sidonie, who had experienced the loss of her brother. He encouraged Sidonie to “continue his life inside of yours insofar as it was unfinished; his life has now passed unto yours.” He urged her to “make it the task of your mourning to explore what he had expected of you, had hoped for you, had wished to happen to you.” This resonates for me because you gave me pure love, a love without qualifications, and that gave me the security to know you wished for the greatest life for me, which I will continue now in your spirit. 

You wished to be remembered as a good husband and father. You were absolutely. You gave me everything you could and more, intermingled with your success from your work ethic. One of your proudest achievements–excelling in your landscaping career–was about being hard-working and celebrating your accomplishments as both a good teammate and leader. You were influenced by the men who were your supervisors and mentors. You built a nest for us–and in one of the proudest moments in your life, bought our blue little home in Carlton, Oregon. Your provision also gave Raine and I experiences with you that we cherish now–traveling to stadiums for basketball games with wild noise, popcorn, and new team jerseys; to Italy, where we stepped into the cold water of the salty Mediterranean, tasted creamy, chocolate gelato, sweated in the summer sun and stood in the shadows of great monuments; to Turkey, where we used crumpled lira to buy spices and baklava in the market and took in the sights of Istanbul as we traveled on the Bosphorus strait, the sun setting as the call of prayer echoed from the mosques; to the warm-hearted homes of family and friends all over the country…Chicago, Portland, Tucson, New York City, Charlotte, Denver, Seattle. Now we will follow your hard working legacy and enable ourselves to curiously and gratefully keep exploring more.

Your legacy of love and hope for us is also there in the swing of Raine’s golf club and the arc of his basketball shot–echoing that moment you were so proud of him when he made a buzzer beater. It recalled your own cherished memory of hitting that game winning free throw against Riverside/Brookfield in high school. Your legacy is there when I relish reading–opening a new book, turning to the first page in anticipation–and the satisfaction at the end. I will miss sharing our final assessments together. Your legacy is there in my clumsy attempts at cooking–something you found so relaxing and performed with such pleasure. It is in the first, savored bite at the new restaurants I try now without you. I drink coffee and the whiskey you relished, the various kinds of beer you loved and fragrant cocktials. I taste sushi, steak and potatoes, and tomatoes like the ones you grew in our garden, topped with a drizzle of vinegar and a sprinkle of salt. I bake your zucchini bread, feeling you in the warm, spicy aroma that fills the kitchen. I eat the tender, flaky smoked salmon–the fish you caught in your sacred places on the Nestucca and Nehalem rivers in Oregon. 

You wished to be remembered as an outdoorsman, and you are. Nature encompassed your spirituality. It was your source of love, care, and appreciation for everything and everyone, and your astounding state of mind you referred to simply as “chill”--that was so present in the moment, so free of distraction, (with the exception of a nagging client). I always said you were the most “zen” person I knew. Your legacy is an encouragement to be outside–and we find you in our fishing lures, scout hood, hikes through the forest or desert, pitching a tent, and simply taking a walk–as you did with Stormy, or by yourself listening to music and playing Pokemon. And don’t we all feel you with us in the drumming and strings and melodies we also listen to? Our memories of you surge with music–Your natural ability playing trombone, excelling in high school and college, taking on punk and ska with First Grade Crush–one of your proudest moments playing the Warp Tour–and the part of you that joked you wanted to be remembered as a rock star. We feel you when we take the mic to sing at karaoke, when your creative playlists fill our ears, when the needle drops on new vinyl. You knew no music you didn’t appreciate on some level. It echoed your appreciation for diversity in life on every level- something your legacy also leaves for us to contemplate.

You lived by the Golden Rule and passed on writings to Raine of what it meant to you–that principle of kindness and respect found in many religions of treating others how you would like to be treated by them. You saw this example in your parents. You felt that you were most shaped by your mom and dad; you valued her example of cheerfulness and positivity, her deep care for her family, and his example of working hard, humility, good leadership, and wit. Also punctuality. You actually wrote to Raine that you wanted to be remembered for your punctuality! You wanted to be remembered as a good friend, and my goodness, how many of them I can count that would testify to your loyalty, good humor, and thoughtfulness! You also wrote of how you admired me, which takes my breath away. You admired me for my strength, and for my creativity and compassion. You wrote that one of your proudest moments was marrying me.

Rilke wrote to Sidonie about how the influence of her brother had not vanished from her and was a pure spirit at her absolute attention. He wrote, “Just think how much in our daily lives misleads and troubles us, and renders another person’s love imprecise for us. But now he is definitely here, now he is completely free to be here and we are completely free to feel him.” I feel you, Dan, everytime like I have mentioned. And the gift of this season. I look at this Springtime green-such a luscious color in every leaf of the plants and trees–you are with me. The sky is wide open in shades of blue, alternating as the rain comes and goes. The rain that was ours…It still is, and I feel your passion and I see you in the wet drops falling, the storm clouds rolling, the mist settling upon blades of grass.

In my wedding vows to you, I promised to always be with you and help you on your journey through life. I promised I would be your home: “You may rest in me, have space away from me, but always come back to me.” And in my 10th wedding anniversary vows, just months after your devastating cancer diagnosis, I contemplated the idea “that attention is the first and final act of love.” I gave you my every possible ounce of attention in a true and deep manner and I remained with you, as your home and place to rest in, as you lived the following ten years that you promised to me. In the end, too, when you suffered great pain, and lost part of yourself to the stroke, and struggled for air from your weary lungs, I was with you, with family and your son, helping you say final words. I was also with Raine, to be his home, for him to rest in me, sleeping in the bed we all shared, as you took your last breath. And your brother and cousin were there to love you–to give their unwavering attention to you–at that very moment. We will all feel you in each other–each being one another’s home–bonded for the rest of our lives. This you gave us and gave your son, and we are grateful. And all of us who were touched by your radiant soul will keep you and your life inside of ours. Thank you.

With with my tears of grief and hope,

and all of my deepest love and admiration for you, 

Leah Ruth   

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