"O all the instruments agree/The day of his death was a dark cold day."
My father, Erich Theodor Richter III, slipped away last night after battling lung cancer for a year and a half.
Dad’s pride and joy was his garden, which was a riot of colorful hollyhocks in the summer and a tangle of squash vines in the fall. For him, gardening was both an art and a science, as he carried out elaborate cross-breeding experiments and charted his results over the years. He wrote outlandish science fiction stories, fantastical tales of bizarre alien creatures, which he’d illustrate with his own pen-and-ink sketches. He played chess and took Spanish lessons and entered poetry competitions. He was interested in everything, and he never stopped learning.
He was a voracious reader. His taste in entertainment was widespread and wildly egalitarian. He loved classic opera and Avatar and Shakespeare and Stephen King and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, all with the same degree of enthusiasm.
Dad had a generous nature, which revealed itself through his overwhelming and sometimes baffling hospitality. Visitors to his apartment would always find themselves presented with one of his signature cappuccinos, or a frosty iced tea, or a slice of his homemade mince pie, or, most likely, all three at once, whether they’d expressed any desire for it or not.
He enjoyed dabbling in the kitchen, where his scientific curiosity would run wild. His love of experimentation sometimes led to unpalatable results: he’d sneak vinegar into his cappuccinos and put grapefruit oil in his fudge, just to see if anything interesting would happen.
He was fascinated by scientific possibilities, and kept abreast of all the latest developments in string theory, chaos theory, quantum theory. He could pontificate on all of these topics at length, usually at parties after a couple glasses of wine.
He handled his illness with courage and good cheer, even though the outlook was grim. After receiving his diagnosis, he assured concerned friends and family members that he was doing just fine, albeit with what he described as “a faint touch of lung cancer.” He spent his final weeks surrounded by those who loved him best in the world.
He was a chemist and a gardener and a writer and a scholar. His intellect was as dazzling as his spirit was generous. He is loved, and he is missed. The world is a less interesting place without him in it.