No, that's not my grandpa (although there is a very faint resemblance to my Pop-Pop). In fact, I only met this man once in my entire life.
His name is Tony Hillerman, and I had the privilege of meeting him in 1991, at the Mystery Writers of America Awards Dinner in New York City. I attended with my grandfather, (not the one who kind of looks like Mr. Hillerman, but a side-by-side comparison might have been interesting...). I even had the opportunity to get my favorite of his novels - A Thief of Time, if you're wondering - personally autographed.
Mr. Hillerman was funny, humble, and very down-to earth. He's been one of my favorite authors for decades, and it was an honor to meet him. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2008.
It's been over a year since my dad has presented me with a new Hillerman novel for my birthday, Christmas, or "just because." It hit me recently that, not only is this wonderful author no longer with us, but his characters are gone as well. Sure, I can revisit Detective Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee any time I wish by cracking my copies of the Hillerman novels that sit on my bookshelf, but it's not the same. Tony Hillerman made his characters so believable, they start to feel like acquaintances once you read a few of his books. I suppose this is what makes the loss if this writer even more sad...those old friends are gone too. I'll never know what happens to the characters.
When a true artist - a gifted painter, writer, musician, engineer, architect, etc. - passes away, we not only lose the individual, we lose the potential their gift held as well. The private person (someone's mom, dad, child, sister, husband, friend) is mourned by his or her family and community. The "artist" - the aspect of that person that created amazing, beautiful, valuable, or significant things - leaves behind a gap of talent that the whole world mourns. We miss the unmade, the unfinished, the unrealized.