The last communication I had with my future brother-in-law was on January 20th, closing a text discussion on the passing of David Crosby. Shawn wrote, “One more and we can get on with our day…one of my favorites” and included a link to a video of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” from the album, “Rust Never Sleeps.” Looking at the lyrics now reveals a foreshadowing.
Just think of me as one you’d never figured
Would fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love
I know I’ll miss her
Powderfinger – Neil Young
With the glow of the Rust Never Sleeps cover fronting the video, I became curious about the term. In “Thrasher’s Wheat – A Neil Young Fan’s Chronicles,” I found this interpretation:
‘The meaning of the phrase “Rust Never Sleeps” is quite ambiguous. Some consider the term to be a metaphor for artistic vitality. In other words, by staying the same, one is vulnerable to the corrosive effects of aging and obsolescence. By moving forward and innovating, one can try and stay ahead of the relentless onslaught of time, remain vital and “rust free”.’
Another reference to rust on Young’s classic record is from the haunting song, “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue).”
It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.
Shawn was a creator. In a heartfelt tribute, his boss Steven Green, editor and publisher of the Maryland Coast Dispatch wrote that “during his 23 years with the newspaper he wrote more than 20,000 articles.” Shawn was such a force a local competitor also honored him. If that 20,000 number is boggling your mind as it did mine, I’ll do that math for you. It’s over 17 articles per week – if he took two weeks of vacation a year, and I don’t think he did. Beth says Shawn’s work ethic was like that of their Dad, Owen who in her words, “never missed a day of work in his life.” The Soper’s I know all share that trait, but for Shawn, the 20,000 article thing was just one vocation. He also loved his work in the restaurant business and as a bartender. The combination resulted in many long days and nights.
Fifty-nine. When we lose a loved one, sometimes we consider it, “before their time.” I’m sure the family’s 91-year-old matriarch feels this way. Beth and I were talking about that the other night. The duration of a human life is just one dimension and as Einstein taught us, time is relative. The creative process can be extremely stressful and draining. Think of the many creative human beings – artists, writers, actors, musicians – who passed “before their time.” Still, they left us so much and did it all in the amount of time life allotted them. Maybe Shawn lived his 90+ years in just 59. One thing is for sure. He didn’t rust.