It's been a month since one of my closest friends, Craig Maloney, passed away on the morning of Tuesday, April 2, 2024. I've been working on this post for the last three weeks. Grief is not linear, and writing this has been difficult, positive, and a lot of things in between. I shared some of this already on social media, and at Craig's celebration of life, but I didn't have as much time to think about those two situations as I might have liked. This post is my more well-thought-out version.

Craig was an all around amazing person. He was one of the kindest, most caring, and most genuine people I've ever known. Every community he joined, ever person he befriended, ever life he touched, is better for having know him. To me, he was a best friend, always there, always listening, always sharing. His unwavering support throughout our friendship has helped me through some of the best and worst times in my life. We talked almost every day over text, and regularly on video.

I wish I knew for certain exactly when we met, but I don't remember for sure. (Fundamentally, it matters that we met, not when. But, I have a penchant for timelines, so here we are.) We met one of two ways, in 2004 or 2005. We probably met through my coworker in 2004 or earlier 2005, through attending meetings of a local user group, Michigan User Group, aka MUG. (I'm at least fairly certain I attended before deciding to present a talk.) If we hadn't already met, then we definitely met when I first presented for MUG on July 12, 2005. We were both attending a local nerd-convention called Penguicon from 2006 onward. We initially chatted whenever I would attend MUG meetings or at Penguicon, but over the next few years, we would become close friends.

Craig affected my life for the better in more ways than I am even aware. It's some of the huge ways he helped change the course of my life that I would like to share.

Craig has been enthusiastic about PyOhio since attending the first one in 2008. Every year after that at Penguicon, he would try to talk me into going. I wasn't a programmer, and didn't have the money for a trip, so there was no way it was happening. Fast-forward to July 2017. The Python programming language had finally clicked for me, albeit through a version called CircuitPython, designed to run on microcontrollers. I remembered PyOhio, which turned out to be happening at the end of July. So, with two weeks of programming experience, I went to my first technical conference. It was an introduction to an amazing community of which I would quickly become a part, and from which I would grow wonderful, lasting friendships. It was also where I would gain the confidence to ask to write a tutorial on my first-ever CircuitPython project for the company that I would eventually work with for 6 years. The following year at PyOhio 2018, I presented my first hands-on tutorial. This whole experience also led to me attending a larger Python conference called PyCon in 2018 and 2019, where I would meet my future wife, and was asked to be a keynote speaker at PyOhio 2019. I've continued to attend both, in-person and virtually. In 2023, I agreed to be conference chair for PyOhio 2024, and the foreseeable future, in charge of running the conference.

PyOhio 2019 would be the last time I saw Craig in person until I visited to say goodbye to him the week before he passed.

Craig put a lot of effort into working through his own issues in his own life. He was deeply involved with a community built around bettering oneself through various skills and concepts. The specific focus of the community changed a few times throughout the years, but the general idea remained the same. Throughout the years, when I was going through issues similar to his own, he would suggest the things he was learning from that community and its leader, L. And every time, I would tell him thank you, but it wasn't my thing. In late December 2022, I was dealing with carrying around a lot of negativity and resentment from many different sources. Again, Craig suggested a resource from L, this time a book on letting go. "Trust me, it's short. Think of it as a self-help blog that isn't full of shit. I promise you can read it in one night," he said. And as usual, I accepted the link, with the caveat that I probably wouldn't read it. A few days later, I had some time to myself, and decided to give it a chance. He was right; I read it in a couple of hours. And, somewhat to my surprise, a huge part of it clicked for me. It was the right thing at the right time. I quickly internalised the skills and, not only did I work through a lot of what I'd been carrying, I found I was readily avoiding hanging on to new things in the moment. This led to me feeling better and happier than I had in a long time. It greatly improved the way I interact with life and my relationships. The weight it lifted was immense and I'm still using these skills every day.

I left my job in September 2023, though the decision had been made a couple of months earlier. I told Craig as soon as I had made the decision, and we had a video chat a few days later. I did not, at the time of my decision, have a plan. During that call, Craig posed a question that would send me down a major life path that I would never have otherwise considered. He asked me whether I had thought about doing content creation. I told him I'd given it fleeting thought a couple of times, but never anything more. I explained that I didn't really believe that I had anything to offer that was worth folks' time and money. He insisted that was not the case, and that what I had to share was important and relevant. It took four days for that conversation to set in. Put simply, he convinced me I could make a living pursuing my passions full-time. I messaged him to tell him I was going to do it. I shifted my focus, and I am now pursuing my passions full-time, something I never thought possible.

The idea of continuing on with these things without Craig's support is difficult to accept. Every day I think of something I want to tell him about, ask him about, get help on, music I want to share, and every day I want to check in with him, see how he's doing, and what he's up to. But every day I also think about what he would want for me.

For one, he would have "none of this sniffly stuff", as he insisted when I saw him last (and I promise it's getting better). He would understand grieving, but he wouldn't accept wallowing.

The thing he would really want for me is to live. Live louder, live more intensely, live more vibrantly. Be present in whatever feelings might come. Give my kitties extra pets and lap time.

Craig saw more in me than I might ever accept. But, I will work to be the person he saw in me. I will work to continue the things he did, to spread joy in every community I'm a part of, and to leave a positive mark on every life I touch.

Since Craig's passing, I've become friends with another one of his close friends. I have joined one of the communities that was most important to him, and was welcomed with open arms. I have already begun helping out there where his passing left a void. I decided to take on running his weekly meetup once a month; the second time running it will be next week. These are the places I can help continue tangible things that were deeply important to him.

Ultimately, there is no better way to honor Craig's memory than to deliberately perpetuate the amazing effect he had on this world. I intend to do so with intensity.