The first time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was after the 2006 Los Angeles World Science Fiction convention; I was invited to a dinner with a bunch of other Campbell Award winners from years gone by. It was the year John Scalzi won the award, and I want to say it was me, him, Jay and Elizabeth Bear, though these dinners do blend together and I may be missing a name.
The last time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was last July, at the San Diego Comic Con, where Jay was in a wheelchair, and when I asked him how he was, he said he was dying, and that he wasn't going to last more than about six months. He was frank about this, and seemed to have made some peace with it. His daughter, the other people around him, we all knew he was dying. He didn't let us get maudlin. But every conversation I had with him meant something, because I had gotten to know Jay by then, and to know what a fantastic person and what a fantastic writer he was. I made a conscious effort to fix every interaction in my mind. I hugged him goodbye when I left. He was still a bear of a man, but unmistakably frail.
He'd had cancer for years, and had been brave about it, and had fought. He even beat it for a while. Not long ago, though, it became clear that he was going to lose. Every time I saw Jay thereafter, he was the model of a person who was looking death in its snake-eyed gaze and not allowing the fear to paralyze him.
But I think he was afraid, and his loss — like the loss of every single person who is taken by cancer — represents a loss to us all. Not just because he was a prolific, imaginative and talented writer. Not just because he was a devoted father and a very good friend. Not even because he was a good man. He was every one of those things.
But we lost something today when Jay died, because every person who dies of a mindless, terrible, awful disease like cancer costs our species something.
Good-bye Jay. You are missed already.
From the official announcement:
If you want to make a contribution in Jay's name, please make it to:
Clayton Memorial Medical Fund
P.O. Box 5703
Portland, Oregon 97228