The sadness of David Oestreich’s death is the first I’ve felt this much. I can search out his picture in my gmail contacts, but he will not answer any more. We had some good exchanges, but these are over now.
We met several times: McDonald’s, Highbanks Metropark, Blendon Woods, our apartment, the North Market, Panera, and once in Toledo at the art museum. But we originally met online. We corresponded a bit by postal mail, but he was not one for correspondence that way. He was not so glib at writing things as I.
He was a poet. It had been his aspiration, forsaken for some years, and then renewed with some success. He became devoted to that, and he was good. I saw a lot of his poems in early drafts, and we went back and forth criticizing. There is at least one still forthcoming. We had a literary friendship, a common interest in contemporary poetry, and poetry. He wanted to make sure he understood what American poets up to recently had been saying. He had more enthusiasm than I did, and developed a better technical ability with it by far. He explained free verse to me once, before I read Paul Fussell’s book. He knew how to make it work.
He spurred me to write. Contacted me first about publishing something in his online poetry journal Triage. As the pastorate in Bogota dematerialized, I turned more and more to writing, and he encouraged it, for which I’m grateful. I’m grateful that he understood me, and I’m grateful that I understood him. How many people can you say that much about?
I’m diminished by his death. It brings a change upon me. It is a solemn thing to have something irrevocably removed, a door shut that in this world will never again be opened. My understanding grows, even as I am reduced by the loss. I was writing a blog I thought he’d like when I found out and didn’t dare believe that he had died. He died of pneumonia complications, it cannot have been a protracted affair, but sudden. It is best for the person who dies when it is sudden, and probably worst for those who are left. I am happy for him that he pursues better and more clearly now the thing for which he has been made. May the Lord comfort those of us who have been bereaved, especially his widow and her children.