Cary Lu

Jerre Levy[hidden]

Cary and I were graduate students together at Caltech and developed a deep friendship that was to last a lifetime and more. He is my beloved friend and will always be alive for me in cherished memories.

We met due to a course conflict. Lectures in Neurobiology, the more important course to both of us, and Animal Biology, which was required, overlapped one day a week. Could we alternate attendance and exchange note? On probabilistic grounds, it was doubtful since others' notes, in his experiences and mine, were too confused to be useful. "It is wrong to decide on probabilistic grounds," said Cary, "when an empirical test is available." We ran the test on the first day of class conflict and exchanged notes after class. Naturally, Cary's notes were perfect. I loved him for his notes before I knew all the other reasons to love him. My love increased when a half hour after class he came to my office to announce, "The improbable occurs. Your notes are perfect." I took perfect notes because I was too insecure and terrified to do otherwise. We were lab partners in both courses. We were given a cockroach to dissect in an animal biology lab. I promised Cary that I would love him forever if he would take sole responsibility for the dissection. His doing so was decisive for his career. It would not be wet biology.

I kept my promise because Cary's qualities made it impossible to break. He never quite understood the gratitude of others for all the gifts he gave because he gave as trees bear their fruits, simply because he lived. He was enamored of the wonders of life and always found reasons for gladness and gratitude in it. His beliefs and predictions were nearly always correct, but when they were not, he instantly ceded them without defense to empirical reality or logical truth. He loved truth far more than his beliefs about it. He refused to cast blame. When I blamed those who misused him, he would tell be to be quiet, that it didn't matter, and would often then proceed to tell me the virtues of the blameful. It was impossible not to love him.

His brilliance was a magic show that brought me sheer delight and a sun and stars that enlightened everything. I was irritated once, back in Caltech days, by a mind too smart to be measured. Cary was a subject in one of my studies. After spending an hour giving him an IQ test, I had to abolish him from the study. He topped the IQ scales, on both verbal IQ and performance IQ. He was somewhere over the 99.98th percentile, but I knew not where. I irrationally said in an accusatory and victimized tone, "Now I have to find another subject!" In all sincerity and with dismay in his face, he apologized. It was impossible not to love him.

In the spring of this year, I casually mentioned to Cary in a telephone conversation that a neighbor had offered and I had gladly accepted some nonworking combination of a Macintosh LC II, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Cary instructed me that I was to determine which items were broken and to ship them to him for repair. He was in pain from bone cancer, undergoing radiation treatments and chemotherapy, and had only months to live. I refused. I could not possibly allow him to expend effort and time in repairing (as it proved) a broken LC II and keyboard. He absolutely insisted. I refused. "I want to do it!" he insisted again. "It's fun for me to do it. It relaxes me to do it. I enjoy doing it. Now, please, for my sake, just ship them." My heart breaking, I shipped them. They were back in two weeks, the keyboard perfect, the LC II with all the RAM it could hold, a new hard disk, and the latest operating system. There is no way to thank a generosity that great in a life facing death. "It was nothing," Cary responded to my attempt. "It was fun for me." It was impossible not to love him.

I spent two days with Cary shortly before he died. They are treasured moments and always will be. "I kept the promise," I said. He remembered perfectly. He smiled. "Yes. And I avoided a career in wet biology." He reviewed his life. In wonderment, I listened as this spectacular human being expressed his gratitude for the life that was his, the generosity of friends, the kindness he received, his great good fortune in doing so much of what he loved. Always Cary. A Nobel Laureate of life. So beloved by me and so many.

Cary, Cary, quite contrary, how did you come to be? What brought the blessing of yourself to all the world and me? The Cary who lives in me tries to maintain a Mr.Spock expression, but doesn't quite succeed in hiding the humor in his eyes, and answers in a tone as flat as he can make it, "The improbable occurs."