There Should Have Been A Time For Such A Word

This a post I did not want to write.

Some of you have heard about our friend Alan Lickiss, and in fact, he has commented in this blog, now and then, though not (I think) much in the last year.

We first met Alan and his wife Becky when we moved to Colorado Springs. Our older son was a toddler, and we knew no one in town, but one day Dan came home late because he’d been talking to someone who “reads science fiction” and “his wife wants to be a writer.”

To you kids, grown in the age of the internet this might seem like a trivial thing on which to build a friendship, but at the time they were the first couple we ran into where both read science fiction and both were interested in writing. In fact, before that, I’d only met one person who wrote at all, my friend Charles, who mostly writes horror.

A few days later, and I no longer remember the circumstances precisely, we picked Alan up somewhere because he had some sort of car trouble. I don’t remember who else was with us at the time, I just remember the car was very full, I was in the back seat, and Alan squeezed in the back next to me and Robert saying – in reference to the very tight space – “I’m sorry, we’re going to have to be very good friends.”

Over the next few years, we became very good friends. In fact, our kids grew up together like cousins in an extended family.

After the four of us got kicked out the city’s writing group, for chewing gum in church… I mean, for writing science fiction and fantasy, which puzzled the rest of the group, we formed our own writers’ group, which went on to meet over the next ten (?) years.

Alan was the first in our group to achieve professional publication, selling a story to Analog.

The four of us learned about writing conferences and sci fi cons together, and for many years, travel plans were made across the two houses, rides to the airport shared, and everything done more or less in a group.

Alan climbed pikes peak shortly after his son Jake (who is more or less the same age as my younger son) was born. He trained over a very long time, and then scared us all, who were sure he wouldn’t make it, but he did.

Becky and I sold books at the same time (a few months apart) to the same editor, which gave us another bond and source of gossip.

When 9/11 happened, and Dan was stranded in Virginia, Alan was the person who offered to drive with me to pick him up. And by “drive with me” I mean that he, who knew that I am very scared of driving, particularly highways, offered to drive the whole way. He said he liked driving anyway. We planned to rendez vous with Dan halfway across Kansas.

Now, Alan was one of the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet, but he had a temper. Usually you only knew this if you saw him behind the wheel, where he had trouble suffering fools gladly.

Since he was also a devout Mormon and felt really bad when he swore, on that trip to Kansas, after the first eruption, we settled on a division of labor. When someone cut in front of us, instead of swearing, he pointed at me, and I’d let loose with inventive forms of swearing. So, halfway there, I was hard pressed to come up with new swearing to make him laugh.

Other moments of our friendship come to mind, like the day his family and a couple other friends came to our house for thanksgiving. It was one of those days where everything that can go wrong does, plus a few other things you’d never think would go wrong. It started with our pipes bursting under the sink, then the heat went out. There was at least one other thing there, but I can’t remember what. So we packed the kids under a blanket in front of the tv with cartoons playing, and the adults went up to my office (highest room in the house) with a heater, and sat around, and told stories, and it was a good thanksgiving after all.

I think one of the last times we saw Alan before he got ill, we were gardening on the front yard when he and Becky came by and took us out to get ice-cream.

Shortly after that, we tried to start a writers’ group, but it sort of died in the bud, partly because Alan was unemployed and concentrating so hard on getting another job.

Concentrating so hard that he ignored his symptoms for too long. If I had a time machine…

We were in north Carolina, visiting our older son who was there on an internship, when we got word that Alan had collapsed – he was starving to death, due to a stomach cancer. It was already too advanced for a surgical solution.

For a while a new form of chemo helped him get somewhat better, and then stabilized him, with very few side effects. We had hopes that it would eventually, slowly, cure him But after a while it stopped working, and the treatments they tried next had limited effectiveness and sometimes made him worse.

We saw him dwindle into a shadow and age prematurely.

In the last year, when he as hospitalized and Dan and I went to visit, when everyone expected him to die over the next couple of days, he told us the next time he saw us, he’d be taking us out for ice-cream, because in heaven carbohydrates wouldn’t matter.

When we left on our trip to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop on Saturday morning, we knew he was in the hospital and that the prognosis was grim. But he’d fought death off so often, we thought he could keep doing it.

When we came back from dinner with friends on Saturday, we had a phone call from our son, telling us Alan had died.

I, who am not very sure of anything after death, feel an unshakable certainty that he’s not wholly destroyed, and that we’ll see him again – and perhaps even will hold him to his promise of buying us ice cream.

The thing is, for him, the time will pass very quickly and, as interested as he always was in new experiences, like climbing mountain peaks or meeting all his favorite writers at conventions, and trying all the new electronics, he’ll be having fun.

It is us who are left here who will miss him, and suddenly come up against his absence like someone who takes a step in he dark and doesn’t find ground under his foot. It is us who will catch ourselves looking for him at a con, or thinking “we must call Alan and ask him if he wants to go see this movie” or “I wonder what Alan will think of this” and realize he’s not around anymore, and fall back, and say “oh” and feel the hole left in our lives by his departure.

I realized four years ago when he was diagnosed that I was not ready to have an Alan-shaped hole in my life. Turns out I’m still not ready.  I keep looking at the rose over at and feeling like I fell down the rabbit hole.  Alan can’t be dead.  A world without him makes no sense.

We can’t all have it our way, and sometimes ready or not we have to face absence and loss.  Or at least I do.

For him, as I said, it might be very quick till he’s greeting us again and showing us all the neat stuff he’s figured out since he’s been there.

For us there will be a long time of missing him.

Farewell my friend – may the journey be interesting, may you meet with kindness and love, and may we meet again in a better place.


72 thoughts on “There Should Have Been A Time For Such A Word

  1. I’ve offered up my own prayers, which never feels like it’s enough for someone in a time like this. I always say, “If I can do anything, let me know.” I never say it out of habit. I don’t make such offers lightly. Unfortunately, I also know that there’s little I can do, and that makes me sad.

  2. I never met him, but do recall him commenting a couple of times here, and you have talked about him and his wife on numerous occasions. He sounds like a man who made everyone’s life around him a little brighter. All I can offer you and his wife are prayers, but those are freely given.

  3. Alan, through his words and deeds, touched you, his family, friends, readers and in so doing made them and the world a better place.
    In a quiet moment tonight, stop and feel the prayers of your readers and loved ones. Reach deep into those feelings, and you will find Alan and his love and goodness. He remains and will greet you with ice cream on the other side of the veil.

  4. Time is so short on this journey–what greater gift than someone’s time? I am humbled when someone chooses to become and stay a part of my life…it truly is a gift. Alan gifted you with so much–how wonderful for him that he had you and your family returning it in kind. My condolences, for you and his family. I suppose the best thing to do is to hold close those who are still present, and tell them how much we appreciate them. I haven’t met you in person, but I do appreciate the time you spend sharing here–so thank you, for your voice, your reason, your compassion. I hope you feel loved and supported by all of us out here while you grieve.

  5. 😦 Even more {{hugs}}, as well as prayers for your family and his.

    May the good memories keep you afloat until you find your new normal.

  6. I offer my condolences for the loss of your friend. He now dwells with the just.

    Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
    But with joy wend your way.
    Though hard to you this journey may appear,
    Grace shall be as your day.
    ‘Tis better far for us to strive
    Our useless cares from us to drive;
    Do this, and joy your hearts will swell–
    All is well! All is well!

    Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
    ‘Tis not so; all is right.
    Why should we think to earn a great reward
    If we now shun the fight?
    Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
    Our God will never us forsake;
    And soon we’ll have this tale to tell–
    All is well! All is well!

    We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,
    Far away in the West,
    Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
    There the Saints will be blessed.
    We’ll make the air with music ring,
    Shout praises to our God and King;
    Above the rest these words we’ll tell–
    All is well! All is well!

    And should we die before our journey’s through,
    Happy day! All is well!
    We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
    With the just we shall dwell!
    But if our lives are spared again
    To see the Saints their rest obtain,
    Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell–
    All is well! All is well!

    -William Clayton

  7. My condolences.

    The hole he has left in your life is an indication of a life well lived. Try not to think about the hole so much as all the things that filled it up while he was here.

  8. I know it’s become a trite phrase, but please believe me when I say that I am truly sorry for your loss.
    Whatever may wait for us on the other side, we shall all know soon enough, and for some far too soon.
    Do consider that Alan was truly blessed in that he had the time he did with a loving family and friends such as yourselves. Take some comfort in thinking of all the good times that never would have been had you not met and bonded as like souls.

  9. Deepest condolences to you and yours – a loss always sucks. A musician friend wrote a song about it (and about heaven, since that’s his belief) called “No More Goodbyes”. That’s one of the things that console those of us who’ve had loss (at some point, just about everyone):

    “A day where there’ll be no more goodbyes. No more departures with tears in our eyes. No more broken hears, with the anguished “why’s” – Just “hello”s, “how are ya”s and welcome back sighs.”

    Tell stories about him. Laugh, and know you’ll see him again.

  10. With this, through you, Alan Lickiss has touched someone else today. Thank you.

    My sympathies to Alan’s family, and yours, and to all who are feeling his loss.

  11. Yes – your tribute made me cried and I realize again how the loss in my own life is still there and a hole through my heart. Rest in peace Alan.

  12. Prayers and bright wishes to you, your family, and his family. What a great blessing to have such a good friend. What a great loss to lose him.

  13. That was beautifully written! I am so sorry for the Alan shaped hole in your life and the life of his other loved ones. May He turn your mourning to dancing and, wherever his is, may Alan dance with you.

  14. The way you spoke about the loss gave words to my own feelings about past losses. Thank you. My prayers are with you.

  15. The universe is smaller today. My consolations.
    I hope that this is appropriate and perhaps helpful:


    When Earth’s last picture is painted, and the tubes are twisted and dried
    When the oldest colors have faded, and the youngest critic has died
    We shall rest, and, faith we shall need it–lie down for an aeon or two,
    ‘Til the Master of All Good Workmen shall set us to work anew!

    And those that were good will be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
    They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comet’s hair;
    They shall find real saints to draw from–Magdalene, Peter and Paul;
    They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

    And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;
    And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame;
    But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
    Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!

    Rudyard Kipling

  16. I have lost family and friends to cancer. It’s unreal and words won’t help to lessen the pain. Not immediately. In time it will become bearable. The memories will help. When my dad died (heart problems) I took it really hard. My mom wanted me to go see a psychologist, but I didn’t want to. My dad never went to people like that, why would I? In the end I relented for her sake. I only had to go once. The guy told me to write a letter to my dad in which I tell him how I felt which I did. It was a long letter, but it helped a lot. It made me cry a lot, too, and yet the process somehow made it easier to cope with his death. I still have that letter today. It’s yellow and crinkly.

    I felt your loss in this article. I’m so sorry Sarah. My condolences to you and your family and to Alan’s.

  17. I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you and his family will remember your good times fondly.

  18. A few years ago, a friend of mine from high school died. It was just a few months before his 40th birthday. Back in the day, we used to ditch class and go to the arcade (back when arcades were a thing). We hadn’t talked to each other in a few years, both of us having moved on with our lives at some point. I tried to contact him on his birthday to give him hell about being 40 (I was going to turn 40 in a few months myself) and ask him if we could imagine being 40 back when we were 17. When I googled his name, the only thing I came up with his obituary. I remember thinking: I wish I could’ve ditched class with him one last time.

    It’s hard losing a good friend. I’m sorry for your loss and I’m glad you got to spend time with him in the end.

  19. I went through something very similar myself earlier this year.

    My condolences Sweetie.

    May the G-d(s) provide you with closure and comfort in your time of grieving.

  20. I miss my parents, but they got the opportunity to live long, full lives, I was not at conflict with them when they died, and they each had a slow enough decline that I was able to get used to the idea that they would be gone before it happened, so their deaths don’t bother me as much as many people’s loss of their parents. Although, I do still find myself thinking that I need to talk to one of them about something now and then.

    That said, the ones which have bothered me more have been the ones which have been unexpected, or the end of long, bitter struggle, similar to your description of Alan’s last years. One classmate dropped dead from a blood clot two weeks after she had comparatively minor surgery. Another friend had an aortic aneurism, another classmate had an extremely rare cancer which it had seemed like she had beaten, only to have it reutrn and take her over the next couple of years, some I’m not sure of the actual cause, because I never saw anything about it, but one woman died of completely unknown causes – she just wasted away over a period of a few years. Those are the ones that really trouble me. Just like it’s obvious that Alan’s has troubled you.

    My condolences. I know they have been coming too often lately.

  21. I’m so sorry to hear this. May God be good to him, and may He comfort you and all mourners.

    Re: ice cream, of course Heaven and the new heaven and earth are both associated with the land of milk and honey, albeit you would have to add ice and salt. Also, Ven. Solanus Casey did once perform a multiplication of ice cream cones, on the grounds that celebrating with ice cream was pleasing to Jesus and Mary.

    There will be a happy ending. Unfortunately right now we’re in the sad part of The Princess Bride.

  22. There are those, like my salesmanager and my personal assistant, who have simple faith. They are quite certain of their relationship to God, to the universe at large and to their survival in an afterlife. I am, on the other hand, not of simple faith. I’m an experimentalist, and have trouble believing without evidence. Doubtless I will eventually perform the experiment.

    I profoundly hope that you are right, and that you and your friend are eventually reunited. My prayers will continue both for you, and for his progress in the worlds of God.

  23. Dying… does not trouble the dead.
    Only the living.

    This is why I never cry overmuch for those who have gone, but take a sword to the pain for those who stay behind. We have all walked this road, and will again, until it is the turn of someone else to walk for us.

    All who here bring you well wishes, and all who pray for the family now wandering a bit, feel it too…

    I will say [as a lurker]… I wish you great strength lady, and to the family[s] also, with prayers to those left.


  24. I’m sorry for your loss Sarah. I’ve been there. Keep smiling. Your friend wouldn’t want you to be sad.

  25. My wife died of cancer some years back. A few years later, her sister woke up, went to the kitchen to start breakfast, came back and found her husband dead. What I told her then: The pain will not get better, but it will get less bad. At some point, it will become that old “war wound” that twinges big or little at odd moments, for no obvious reason (a few years back, I was sitting in the morning sun reading a magazine when it hit me). Life goes on; we must go on with it, with our memories.

  26. This song was of comfort to myself and others during such a loss… I hope it will bring similar comfort to you and yours.

    Lucais’ Ship Song

    On a sad gray day, stands a ship in the bay,
    Waiting to take our loved ones away.
    As she sails from our sight on that day,
    We’ll cry, “There she goes. She’s away.”

    On another shore, stand old friends
    Who watch the blue horizons.
    When they see the main sail, blown by the wind,
    They cry, “Here she comes, here she comes.”

    On that other shore stands a great golden hall,
    A fire is lit, the boards are laid.
    All around, standing friends line the hall,
    Cups in hand, a toast to be made.


    For all of us, the white ship sails,
    Taking us from our kith and our kin.
    But remember this as she sails,
    Each parting, a welcome will become.



  27. “Since he was also a devout Mormon and felt really bad when he swore, on that trip to Kansas, after the first eruption, we settled on a division of labor. When someone cut in front of us, instead of swearing, he pointed at me, and I’d let loose with inventive forms of swearing. So, halfway there, I was hard pressed to come up with new swearing to make him laugh.”

    This is perhaps the most wonderful thing I’ve read this week (I happen to be LDS also, though perhaps less restrained than Alan in my vocabulary). Thank you, and I am sorry for your loss.

  28. I am in the grief to come at this time- She’s still fighting the good fight and may win yet. Therefore, I understand and my heart goes out to you and his family. Maybe we can all share ice cream, someday.

  29. I have three things to say. 49 years ago, this last August, my Mother died of Cancer. It took three years, to die a long painful death. About 30 years ago, My Paternal Grandmother died. About 20 years ago, an author I never got to meet, but greatly admired, died. All live on in my memories. When my ‘Ti (petite) Granny died, I realized something. She stood _barely_ 5 feet tall, if that, and weighed 100 pounds, fully dressed and soaking wet. Yet, my strongest memory, is her “dressing down” a cousin (6’1″?, 220+ pounds), and the impression that he *was looking _up_ at her.* She say man go from the first powered flight (age 13?), to the Moon, in her lifetime. And she handled it all.
    Being from an Irish-Cajun(“Granny”)-english family, we tell stories about those who died. In those “stories” the dead live on. I will always picture some great (to the tenth) grandchild of hers, meeting her in Heaven, and saying. “I’ve heard about you. I’m glad to finally meet you.” So it may go with your friend Alan.
    I had the (dubious) pleasure, of making contact with Jo Clayton, shortly before she died. I was able to tell her how much I enjoyed her books, and brought her into the Alt.Fan.Dragons family. Like Alan, she put off too long, seeing a Dr., and died as a result. She had a few physical “friends,” helping her at the end, and other “cyber” friends, doing what they could.
    Alan was lucky to have *good* friends, to tell stories about him (good and bad), as are some of us. Not all of us are blessed with actual families, to miss us, and tell stories about us, when we’re gone. But, as long as there is someone who can, they haven’t really “died.” With no “Wife and Kids” of my own, I hope to “live on,” in the memories of the two L&B “daughters of my heart,” and L&B Adopted granddaughter. Alan, is much luckier.

  30. There may be words of comfort to be offered in your time of mourning, but I don’t have them. My regrets accompany these few words I can put forth.

  31. I am so sorry. My deepest condolences. I, too, lost a best friend last summer, and I had to stop several times while reading your post, because there were so many similarities. Yes, great big friend-shaped holes.

  32. Condolences. Eloquence is of limited value as a salve for the loss you’re dealing with. Things are replaceable…people, not so much. Hold closely the memories you’ve made together, they will bring you some comfort at this time.

  33. I am very sorry, Sarah. Please accept my condolences and prayers for your family and Alan’s. I know how hard it is here; I hope it is much easier there.

    Have faith – it wouldn’t be heaven without guilt-less ice cream.

  34. I offer my own condolenses.

    I have lost both a son and a father, and these two losses have always weighed heavy on me. A few months ago, I was listening to a religious conference (I’m also LDS), and something one of the speakers said jumped out at me: “The truth is, you will never completely get over it until you are together once again with your departed loved ones. I will never have a fullness of joy until we are reunited in the morning of the First Resurrection.” My immediate reaction to this was, “Hey, there’s going to be an end to the pain!” Theoretically, I already knew this, but I nonetheless appreciated the reminder.

    I sometimes wish that losing a loved one didn’t have to be so painful; heck, I sometimes wish that learning someone about Alan in this way, without any chance to meet him for myself, didn’t have to be painful, too! At the same time, I also know that such pain for loss is one of the forces that ties our families and our societies together, so as painful as such loss may be, it is nonetheless very important for our well-being, both societally and individually…

  35. My condolences.

    I remember when my Grandma passed away. We weren’t very close, but, I’m not sure how it happened, I somehow ended up with one of the stoneware mug she made back when she was making pottery. I think it must have been made back when my mother was still a kid.

    I’ve ended up using it pretty much daily since then. Just a little living piece of my grandmother’s memory. It just wouldn’t feel right to me to take something like that and stick it on a shelf to gather dust.

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