[Reposted from Alaska Commons]
Death is never a welcome guest in anyone’s life. The tragic event of a loved one’s passing never comes as an expected event, no matter the circumstance. When I was a little kid, my grandmother suffered in a hospital bed for months suffering from emphysema while the candle light slowly flickered before it finally gave way to the very empty darkness that always and sadly prevails. Still, no one was able to prepare for the moment when the heart rate monitor told us what logic had warned us of for a long time beforehand.
Tonight, George Sullivan, father of the current mayor of Anchorage, Dan Sullivan, passed.
According to the Anchorage Daily News:
George Sullivan, the mayor who steered Anchorage’s city government into a modern municipality, died at home Wednesday night of complications from lung cancer.
His eldest surviving son, Tim, said his father died peacefully in his sleep at 10:08 p.m. He was surrounded by his family. He was 87.
A lifelong Alaskan, Sullivan was born on March 31, 1922, and raised in Valdez.
He had a long and storied career in Alaska and its politics. He was a deputy marshal in Nenana, a city councilman in Fairbanks and Anchorage, and became Anchorage’s city mayor in 1967.
He held that position until the old Anchorage city and borough governments unified under a new charter in 1975, when Sullivan won election as the new municipal government’s first mayor.
He served the charter-limited two terms in that position.
Altogether, Sullivan held the top post in Anchorage’s city government for 14 years, longer than any other person.
He and his wife, Margaret Eagan Sullivan, had 9 children. Margaret Sullivan died in 2007.
One of his sons, Dan, is Anchorage’s current mayor.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Tomorrow, the ongoing disagreements that are commonplace in politics should take a breath to bid farewell to an important and respected figure in Alaskan history. I’m not a fan of anyone’s passing sanctioning Fox News-esque mythology and don’t think this will be the case. More importantly, I’m not a fan of anyone having to deal with a loved one passing. Period. I hope we, as a community, can separate the vitriol of politics from the compassion and apathy of recognizing that death hits us all; each uniquely and deeply.
Let me be clear. There should be not one case where one conflates the passing of a loved one with heated political argument.
If only for a day, away from politics as usual, and out of respect for the Sullivan family, I hope they find comfort in family and community and memories. For those who pray, please do. My thoughts are with the Sullivan family. I am deeply sorry for your loss, and I raise my glass to the passing of someone whom you cared so deeply for.
I can’t offer anything substantive, only relative. Here are some words that helped me through a similar situation, when a close friend of mine named Tom Valero passed a couple years back; they’re from Pearl Jam’s song “Come Back,” which was written for Joey Ramone, a close friend of Ed Vedder, shortly after his passing:
If I keep holding out
Will the light shine through
Under this broken roof
Its only rain that I feel
I’ve been wishing out the days
I have been planning out
All that I’d say to you
Since you slipped away
Know that I still remain true
I’ve been wishing out the days
Please say that if you hadn’t gone now
I wouldn’t have lost you another way
From wherever you are
And these days they linger on
And in the night I’ve been waiting for
The real possibility that I may meet you in my dreams
I go to sleep
If I don’t fall apart, Will my memory stay clear
So you had to go, And I had to remain here
But the strangest thing today
So far away and yet you feel so close
And I’m not gonna question any other way
There must be an open door
For you… To come back
We all have, and will have, and probably should have our differences. This isn’t, and can’t be, one of them. Mayor, I wish you well on this sad and trying day. May your father rest in peace and sleep in fame.