R.I.P. Roger Greenan
Roger Alan Greenan
Roger Greenan died of a heart attack a week ago. He was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam Conflict (as my friend, a VN vet, reminds me, it was not a war).
I met Roger in Singapore, when he was working in Indonesia, some years after his time in Vietnam. He was a neighbour, an acquaintance, and later, a friend. A very valuable friend. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that I would not be here today if not for Roger.
I lost touch with Roger long ago — he was a very dynamic individual, and moved around a great deal, and I — well, I was young and rootless and fairly directionless, as well, moving around a great deal myself.
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to find Roger again. And, ironically, too late. Because the one thing I wanted to do was thank Roger for his kindness to me. He took it upon himself to talk to me about life and the art of living. For reasons unbeknownst to me, he worked to get past my rudeness and hostility towards him, and in so doing, made me understand that I had to make a choice, and spiraling downwards into depression and suicide was not a choice, but a renunciation of choice. It takes a little work to make a choice. Lying back and letting things happen is not making a choice, it's abdicating from one's responsibilities.
Other things Roger taught me: A person's first responsibility is to themselves. You, and you alone, are responsible for figuring out your life and living it. Only after you have discharged that essential responsibility are you in a position to take on any additional responsibilities. Life is a struggle, and a body has to do whatever they need to in order to survive. Survival is more important than dignity.
I'm sorry I never got to say thank you, Roger, but I've thought of you constantly throughout the years. So here's my public acknowledgement: Thank you, Roger Greenan, for all that you did for me. You were a good man, and generous to a fault.
Details of Roger's life and death are available here. As you can see from reading it, my high opinion of Roger was shared by many.
As an atheist, I feel the loss of Roger more keenly than those who might believe in some deity that ensures further contact with the dead. I'm not sure what "R.I.P." means, really, for people like me, except that, as Shakespeare said, so long ago,
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownéd be thy grave!
Renownéd be thy grave. Stumble It!