Author and personal hero, Frank McCourt, passed away on July 19th, 2009 at 78 years old. I met his brother, fellow author Malachy McCourt when I was sixteen years old, and I met Frank about a year later. I loved hearing him speak, with his unmistakeable brogue and immensely rich personal history. The first time I read Angela's Ashes, I re-read it four times before I could even think to write a school paper on it. And I was so embarrassed to admit to my teacher, in a room filled with apathetic boredom, that a light was ignited inside of me and that I vowed to myself to appreciate this life more than I ever had.
If I could find that paper now, it would probably be personally edited to the point of mild excitement and decent review. I held back so much in high school, afraid to be more different than I always felt. Frank was a writer to had no airs, no hidden haikus and great morality. He was gritty, but sweet. Unfortunate and desperate, but prosperous and somehow satisfied. His writing was mystifying and I am so thankful that he felt as passionately about writing as I do about reading his work. It's hard to explain, but his imagery was transported through his beautiful choices of words in a way that seemed so unpretentious, I thought for a while it couldn't actually be as special as it was.
His one lasting influence on me will definitely be the way I see other people. Someone with an accent, what was their mother like? A man with white hair, what has he survived on this Earth? A woman with a scowl, what has been taken from her?