The night that Trish called to tell me that Darin Whittaker, also known as Father Sluggo to both poetry and music fans, was no longer with us we had already been missing him. Concerned about bringing Covid home to his aging parents, he hadn’t been at the open mic for quite a while and we were having technical difficulties. “If Darin was here, he could fix this,” I had said, not realizing what had happened a few days before.
He was a talented poet and we loved what he brought to the mic, but it was his kindness and the way that he stepped up to help without needing to be asked that made him indispensable in our poetry community. He took it upon himself to hang fliers around town, help move tables, and, yes, magically make the touchy amp actually work.
I was able to attend his funeral in Orem, Utah and convey our condolences to his family. A copy of Orogeny was laying open in a display of beloved personal items (like his distinctive hat!). I looked closely to see his familiar eyes in his clean-cut high-school-senior-photo face. As I said a final goodbye, it felt like he could hop up at any minute. It still seems a bit unreal that he is gone. His sister read two of his poems during the service and I could hear his voice in my mind as clearly as if he had actually been at the open mic that week. His niece shared some of his favorite jokes (groaners, all of them) and another sister shared touching and fun stories from his life.
The pews were packed, as well you might imagine they would be, and I kept thinking about how many people there were who wanted to come but couldn’t. And that doesn’t even come close to the number of people he touched in his 48 years. How I wish he had 48 more.