Kirtland Chase Mead

June 9, 1943 – November 26, 2017

Remembrance from my father’s memorial service, December 3, 2017

I am Lindsey, Kirt and Susan’s older daughter. Thank you for being here today to celebrate my father’s life. There is a line in Steinbeck’s East of Eden in which the characters lament the coming death of their beloved father. How could they think of anything without knowing what he thought about it? This is exactly how I felt about my father my entire life. All that mattered was what he thought. Dad’s has always been the voice I hear in my head, and I suspect – and hope – that never changes.

Dad was, as we said in the obituary, a Renaissance man. He was a man of towering intellect, occasional gruffness, and, perhaps, less well-known but equally importantly, hilariously apt one-liners. Two that come to mind for me often are his assertion that “there are two words that separate us from the animals: may and well.” I have taken that particular adage to heart and think of it every time my children respond to “how are you?” with “I’m well.”

Another thing Dad said often that’s come to mean a lot was his repeated comment to his daughters: “I’m sorry, you must be mistaking this for a democracy.” As a child, of course, that sentence drove me nuts. As a parent, I think he was onto something.

Dad had unapologetically high standards. When I graduated from Princeton magna cum laude, his first words to me were “what happened to summa?” Sometimes his demand and expectation of excellence felt onerous, but most of the time it inspired me. He was invariably curious about my life – asking each and every time I saw him about Grace, Whit, and Matt, the new company I founded this year with wonderful partners, and my writing, usually in that order. He told me often, and recently, how proud he was of Grace and Whit (the expression he used, just last week, was “is there anything they can’t do?”). It’s a gift to be so certain of his love and esteem, and I know it.

My father was an engineer. He had a master’s degree in Physics, a PhD in Engineering, and an abiding trust in the ability of science, logic, and measurement to explain the world. At the same time, he had a deep fascination with European history and culture, often manifested in a love of the continent’s cathedrals. His unshakeable faith in the life of the rational mind was matched by his profound wonder at the power of the ineffable, the territory of religious belief and cultural experience, that which is beyond the intellect.

I grew up in the space between these worlds. This gave me an instinctive understanding that two things that appear paradoxical, like these beliefs, can be both totally opposed and utterly intertwined. From my father I learned that at the outmost limits of science, where the world and its phenomena can be understood and categorized with equations and with right and wrong answers, there flits the existence of something less discernible. The finite and the infinite are not as distinct as we might think, and the way they bleed together enriches them both.

My Dad, who had a three-ring binder full of mathematical derivations he had done for fun (in fountain pen), also stood next to me in cathedrals in Italy, looking up at stained glass windows with frank reverence on his face. For all of his stubborn rationality and fierce belief that everything can be explained, he also always suspected, I think, that some things could not. In fact I think for my father, despite how trained and steeped he was in the language of equations, proofs and derivations, the parts of the human experience that cannot be captured by the empirical were the most meaningful.

This contradiction existed in how he thought about sailing, too, the other primary through-line of his life. Sailing was about careful navigation, measurement, and the angles between water, sail, and wind. And yet at the same time sailing was for Dad about something far less tangible, a fleeting and effervescent way of being in the world, an ability to sense and feel the boat and to make infinitessimal adjustments that made the boat move more smoothly and faster. I often told Dad that he was the person with whom I felt safest on the water, and this is true despite some very bumpy sails. His favorite point of sail was to windward. There was both precision and something far greater guiding my Dad’s hand on the tiller.

There are so many things Dad taught me that I can’t possibly list them, but this was his greatest gift: the belief that there is meaning beyond that which we can prove, and that a life of celebrating that can be a rich one indeed.

Dad often quoted Peter Pan, and his cry “Second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning!” Dad’s with the stars now, and I’ll remember that every time I look up at the night sky that he so recently explored with us. I think of Grace, Whit, and Dad standing in the street in Marion viewing Venus when it was visible two summers ago. One of my dear friends from college emailed me after Dad died about how he was “part of the firmament,” as a way of conveying her shock at his loss. I loved that image, and one morning this week driving to the bus I asked Whit to look up the formal definition of firmament. It is “the heavens or the sky.” So I think he’s still – maybe even more – a part of the firmament now.

I wish you fair winds and following seas, Dad. And I thank you.

***

Two photos of my children and my father that I love


Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

13 Comments

  1. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I have been waiting to read your words here about your dad as I expected they would be beautiful and they are. I can not believe that you had the strength and wherewithal to write this remembrance but I am awfully glad you did. I know that hearing and reading your words must have brought comfort to many. And I hope that writing them brought you some small amount comfort as well. Sending hugs to you all.

    [Reply]

  2. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Beautiful words that make it clear what a towering man your dad was, Lindsey. I’m so sorry he’s gone, and hope that the deep well of stories and memories will bring a smile to your face in the days ahead.

    [Reply]

  3. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I am so sorry for your loss, Lindsey. What a beautiful and touching tribute.

    [Reply]

  4. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Dear Lindsey,

    I, too, have been waiting for these words about your dad, and I’m so glad I read them this morning. You so beautifully honored his life and passions, his love for you and your family and your love for him. He sounds like a truly extraordinary man, and I know how much he is missed. Sending love and hugs as you continue to grieve and celebrate him. xo Kate

    [Reply]

  5. Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    So beautiful and true, Lindsey. Thank you for sharing this remembrance with us. xo

    [Reply]

  6. Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Dearest Lindsey – I have been following your posts of your dad since you shared the heartbreaking news in your initial post. That post stopped me in my tracks. I sobbed for a man I did not know but who’d left something lasting and profoundly important in his daughter. I read your eloquent words thinking of my own father and how this day will come and I won’t be prepared. I can only hope that I can articulate as well as you have so others can know what a true hero looks like. I would be amazed at your eloquence at a heartbreaking moment like this if I did not know firsthand how one’s writing gift is meant to be used at such a time. These are the moments we writer’s do what no one else can do in a time such as this. And we thank God we CAN do something to ease the burden of those who mourn while celebrating the person who loved us so well. I thank you for being showing us your great father who was a great man in words and images that will stay with us forever. I pray he continues to shine through you. RMS

    [Reply]

  7. Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    You’ve so beautifully captured the essence of your father. Surely your ongoing conversation with him will continue. Thank you for sharing him.

    [Reply]

  8. Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Dear Lindsey –
    What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your father’s wisdom with us. Now I know who inspired you on your path as an explorer of our internal and external galaxies. I love learning from you, and now your father.
    Sending you lots of love – Priscilla .

    [Reply]

  9. Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful eulogy. The ability to convey such depth of a life in a few paragraphs is a testament to the man that he was and the writer that you are. Thank you for sharing and educating us all on what the “firmament” is. Literally and metaphorically.

    [Reply]

  10. Posted December 6, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    My deepest condolences, Lindsey. Sending love and light. xo

    [Reply]

  11. Trish
    Posted December 6, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Thinking of you and sending continued support

    [Reply]

  12. Posted December 6, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Lindsey, this is such a moving, beautiful tribute and I’m sure it’s a treasure for your whole family and for your father’s friends.

    [Reply]

  13. Posted December 10, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, i am so sorry for your loss. A beautiful tribute to your father. Wishing you strength.

    [Reply]

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*