We live in a culture that fears death and seems to think that death is tragedy. When you really think about it, that’s a weird idea, which as much as says that life is a failure in that it ends.
Death is an ending, yes, but it is not a tragedy, just a natural culmination. However, still it is an ending, and there’s no talking it away.
I’m thinking these thoughts because my friend, publisher, and longtime partner in Hampton Roads, Bob Friedman, died on Monday the seventh, just a few weeks shy of his 77th birthday. He died of a relatively short illness which was apparently painless, not a bad way to go.
He leaves behind not only his beloved companion Beth Hines, and his four children, but friends too many to count, and a rich legacy of books.
Bob founded or co-founded no fewer than three publishing companies (The Donning Company in 1974, Hampton Roads Publishing Company in 1989, and Rainbow Ridge Books in 2009) and, in a career spanning more than 40 years, published more than 1,000 books.
Mary Summer Rain, Mary Elizabeth Marlow, Winter Robinson, Neale Donald Walsch, John Nelson, and so many others: Bob gave them their first chance. Without him, would they ever have found a sympathetic publisher? Without their books, would thousands of people have received the encouragement and inspiration they needed? And what of the people that these people may inspire and encourage in turn?
Certainly he changed my life! Changed, enriched, complicated, provoked, encouraged, facilitated…. Anything I accomplished as editor or author, I accomplished because Bob and I teamed up to start a publishing house. Anybody I encouraged came out of that base, which means it is a secondary effect of Bob’s life. You see the point, there’s no end to it.
For that matter, it was Bob’s idea that he and I do Gateway together in December, 1992, and put the cost on the company. The consequences that flowed from that decision make up an entirely different but equally important chain of influences.
There is no way to estimate this one man’s influence, because for one thing we will never see the end of it. Seems to me there’s an encouraging lesson there for all of us.