The Death of John “overcode” Hall

Returning from Grand Rapids, I was shocked to learn that John “overcode” Hall had lost his war with stage IV melanoma on September 17th. I had posted about John Hall’s battle previously. He is the author of Programming Linux Games and used to work at Loki.

From his War blog:

One of my main purposes in blogging this is to alarm people into getting suspicious moles checked out by a doctor immediately. If you are even remotely concerned about anything on your skin, please make an appointment with a doctor today. You definitely won’t regret it.

Definitely good advice that merits repeating.

A number of people close to him have written on the subject, such as Ryan Gordon and Jamie Fristrom.

It was Stéphane Peter‘s post that really threw me for a loop. Up until I saw it, I didn’t realize how young John Hall was when he had died. I had assumed that he was young, but still a bit older than I am. I thought he was maybe 40 years old. It turns out that he was born only a year before I was. A YEAR!

In about the same span of time that I’ve been alive, the man became a pilot, a published author, a game programmer, and a musician among other roles. And on top of it all, he put up a valiant fight against cancer. According to people who knew him, he was enthusiastic, ambitious, and incredibly motivated. He was also a good friend and family member. I wish I would have known him or at least talked to him on IRC.

I didn’t know him, and yet the news of his death really hit home. Family members have died without stirring so much emotion in me. I didn’t know why it affected me so much, but I thought about it for some time. I’ve determined the following possible reasons:

  • For one, I’ve had almost the same amount of time as he did on this planet. Nothing stopped me from accomplishing great things in that time. How did I squander it? What did I do besides graduate from college?
  • For another, while I have been interested in improving my general health, I’ve been procrastinating with seeing a doctor for a physical as well as getting new health insurance to replace my expired plan. The application was frustrating to fill out, to be sure, but it was not so bad as to have delayed me for over a month. My eyes have been bothering me for months (I can read but I’m not sure why it is somewhat more difficult), but I haven’t gone to have them checked out. One of my knees was painful for months at a time, and I never went to see a doctor about it. It cracks loudly when I extend my leg these days.
  • Finally, what about my major goals in life? What are they? What’s taking me so long to define them and start making progress?

I feel terrible thinking about my own mortality because I feel like I am doing his memory a disservice by talking about me. On the other hand, I think the death of a person who has some connection to you, no matter how surprising the connection may be, is cause for introspection. It puts things into perspective. In the end, I know I have no excuses for what I have done or haven’t done, but I also know that I can’t just wallow in my past failures. My life shouldn’t be wasted by waiting for the perfect time. My life shouldn’t be wasted by waiting for the perfect circumstances. I’m living it, whether I’m ready or not. Time will pass, whether I’m happy with the moments or not. In the time I can do so, I would like to actually make a difference.

My thoughts and prayers go out to John Hall’s family and friends. He sounded like someone to look up to, and I know at the very least that he has inspired me.

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