After I messed it up, I was tired – exhausted – and I wanted to stop. But my dad told me to recover and write it all the way to the end.
And then he put his empty coffee cup in the dishwasher, and then he left, and then he was really gone.
He always leaves me to write the end on my own. So that what I write will be my own.
Write it to the end – the one you had in mind from the beginning. I learned this writing technique later in grad school, but my dad taught me first. Start with the end. Write with the end in mind.
This is what God does, in the world and in our lives. He writes ours lives and the history of the world with the end in mind.
And the end brings us back to words.
My dad and I believe that words are the most creative and eternal thing we have on Earth. We believe that words are not only little slips of value like money or little containers for meaning – that words don't merely express truth or carry truth or contain truth – although they do do these things. But that words can also create truth. That you can make something be true by saying it. By declaring it.
The best example is God, who literally created physical things by speaking. But, after him, there have been people (made in his image) who have that same power to a lesser degree. People who can create truth and make things be just by saying that they are. And my dad was one of those people.
I’m sure my dad would not be shocked to learn that, after a certain age, the only way to increase your IQ, to create new connections, new synapses in your brain, is to learn new words. To build your vocabulary.
And, as much as I adore my little brother, and think his obsession with math is cute, I’m not at all surprised that there was never an integer that was made flesh to dwell among us. Because Math describes, categorizes, postulates, orders, delineates . . . but it doesn't create. Not like words do.
And as proud as scientists and mathematicians are of their logic, I can't help noticing that "logic" comes from logos. Which means word. And I think logic and magic are the same thing. That they are intimately related.
I think that all of these things are intimately related, and that words are all about relationships. That’s what we’re here to celebrate today. The new connections and the new relationships that my dad created with his incredible talent for words.
That’s why you’re here today. You’re here because you’re going to miss talking to my dad. You’re here because my dad talked to you – and, as he talked to you, he made you who you are.
To some of you he said: “You have an entrepreneurial spirit, but you’re living a life of no risk.” And you started taking risks. To some of you he said: “You have a passion for children, but you’re putting off having any.” And you started a family. To some of you he said: “Your heart is overseas, but you’re here.” And you moved.
To me he said: “You’re a writer.” And I didn’t go to Med School.
The thing that bothered me the most when I heard about my dad’s death is that all of those connections that he built so carefully, all of his life’s vocabulary, went with him – that he got to take it with him. I wanted him to leave it here. I wanted him to keep the conversation going. I wanted to talk to my dad for the rest of my life. I will talk to him for the rest of my life – even if it’s only in my own head.
But my dad has been translated. He has been given a new vocabulary, and it's one I don’t understand. He has new words, and, I think, a new name. His reaching is over. Maybe God will let him rest, change his name from an imperative to a declarative. Maybe now he's “Russell Builds” or “Russell Sings.” Or, maybe (and this is my vote) maybe simply “Russell Is.”
The end brings us back to words. And in the end, I’m happy for my dad’s values, his priorities, and his vocabulary. Because people who delight in words, and in the Word, get to enjoy them forever.