Today, my friend Oren Miller was laid to rest.
I met Oren in person in 2012, at the National At-Home Dad Network’s annual Convention. It was my first, and it was a weekend full of first-time face-to-face meetings with people with whom I had been connected online, in one way or another, for a while. On his blog A Blogger And A Father, he was my sometimes-compatriot in advocating for dads, while at other times he played devil’s advocate, providing a counterpoint. I respected him immensely.
Oren took me by surprise, when we finally met. For one thing, there was the Israeli-by-way-of-Baltimore accent, which I joked with him at the time was shocking to me, as it didn’t come through in his writing. But also surprising was the unassuming and quiet way he had about him. Online he was known to be outspoken, almost brash. And I could see the spark in his eyes, when a quip would come to mind that he’d hold back when in what was still unfamiliar company. But over the weekend, as we got to know one another better, he stopped holding back. I could tell that that quiet, unassuming nature wasn’t shyness so much as a penchant for letting others take the lead and not wanting to be the center of attention.
Oren was already an important element of the dad blogging community, but that took on new meaning when he did something because, in his words, he was tired of waiting for someone else to do it: he made the small but incredibly important decision to start a Facebook Group for dad bloggers. Simply called “Dad Bloggers,” it is as unassuming as the man himself. I had the honor of being the first person he added to the group. So… not a great start. But it became something very special, where hundreds of blogging fathers (and now over a thousand) could talk shop, get to know one another, work together, argue, debate, and generally just build an incredible community. I could write a lot about what this small thing has accomplished, but suffice to say that it has literally changed the lives of many of the men involved. He was our leader.
I’d see him a couple of more times over the years. At the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans last year we had our butts sketched together. He let me keep it.
This past year, Oren was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. His prognosis was never good. But his fight has been inspiring, both in how he demonstrated strength and humor and humility, and in how he inspired so, so many to do great things. Last week in San Francisco, the Dad 2.0 Summit announced the naming of their scholarships, that help dads attend who would otherwise not be able to, the Oren Miller Scholarship Fund. Too sick to attend, our friend Brent Almond (Designer Daddy) read a message to the crowd, causing many tears. Capping off the weekend was the announcement that next year, the Summit would take place in Oren’s back yard, Washington, DC, and we all hoped and prayed that Oren would be there to join us. But a week later, Oren would pass away, mere days after telling his Dad Blogger group — in a way only he could — that the treatments had stopped working, and his time was up. As a community, we’re in mourning. Today was his funeral, and though we all wished we could attend, we are happy to have been well represented there.
Meanwhile, we’re choosing to honor Oren in three ways:
1) We’re walking for Oren. Today, dads across the country are taking a #LoveWalk4Oren, just to set aside some time with our kids to think about a man who gave so much to this community.
A photo posted by Chris Routly (@chrisroutly) on
2) We’re continuing to support his family. When Oren was diagnosed, the Dad Blogger community started a fund in order to help his family, both with their needs through treatment, to give his wife and kids an unforgettable last year with their husband and father, and to help offset the considerable, inevitable funeral expenses, and beyond. I’d encourage you to considering giving to this worthy cause.
3) Tomorrow, we’re taking up a fight that was important to Oren, and that it is time we finish for him. More on that tomorrow.
Thank you for letting me talk about my friend. I miss him terribly. My heart breaks for his wife Beth and his kids Liam and Madeline, and for all of us who feel his loss so deeply. Please be keeping them in your thoughts today.