My father Yevgeniy Mazin (also known as Zheka, Zhenya, Papa, or, resentfully, Eugene) died on Friday September 8th 2023. He was 59 years old.
This will serve as my online memorial to him. Once, my grandmother wrote a memorial to her own father, and stumbling upon it was special to me. So, maybe some day my child or grandchild will similarly learn about papa.
What can I say? Let me start with the basics.
Papa experienced discomfort in his chest on Thursday and died that night, in his sleep. We are confident that he died without pain or even awareness.
For this, I am thankful. It is a blessing to die in your sleep.
Even more importantly, he died a happy man.
Yes, this is a tragedy. We miss him terribly, and we are in pain, yet I feel thankful about the situation – it could be a lot worse.
Now, please allow me to share with you the eulogy I delivered at his funeral, which was attended by over 60 people, including old friends, family (his wife, his four children and their partners, his three grandchildren, his mother-in-law, and unfortunately his own mother), and colleagues.
Eulogy for my Father
I want to start by thanking you all for being here, and by thanking all those who wish to be here but can’t. It warms my heart to know that papa is so loved and celebrated and missed.
As you all know, last week papa passed away peacefully in his sleep aged 59 years old.
I am grateful that, in my eyes, papa died having just finished the best year of his life. It was a year in which he saw his grandchildren and children many times, traveled widely with mama and their closest friends, and met his newest grandchild, Sasha.
In other words, papa died immensely happy.
I want to now take some time to reflect on papa.
First, I want to talk about him as an intellectual.
One thing I knew, but did not fully appreciate until speaking with papa’s friends and colleagues, was that papa was brilliant.
Once, I saw him lying on the couch with his eyes closed. I asked him what he was doing. I’m thinking about tetrahedrons, he said.
Papa was a rare combination. He had a deep knowledge of physics, especially electromagnetics and optics, and mathematics, specifically topology, linear algebra, and numerical methods. But on top of this, which I think is the true rarity, he was by all accounts a wizard programmer.
This isn’t part of the eulogy I delivered, but here is just one of the stories his colleagues passed on: Once, there was a bug in some proprietary package the team depended on. The vendors themselves couldn’t figure it out, so papa decompiled it and figured out the bug in assembly.
The subfield papa focused almost his entire career on was finite element analysis. His software (his own FEA package, QuickField, as well as the LightTools package from Synopsys) has been used in prestigious research labs and for medical research, which he was immensely proud of.
But Papa wasn’t just a hard science guy. He loved music, literature, and film, especially the Italians. He worked hard to pass along those passions. Mama and papa took us to many, many concerts, operas, and ballets. I have many fond memories falling asleep at them.
Papa and I started, and fell asleep during, 8½ at least three times. I find it strangely comforting that papa and I finally watched Brat together last year. The whole movie he reminded me, “You realize this is ironic, right?”
It will surprise no one to hear that Papa was an absolute sweetheart. Of course, he was incredibly sarcastic and ironic. But he loved to tell us he loved us. He told us he was proud of us. He called us nicknames like malish. He sent us hearts, gave us hugs, held our hands – even as adults. Even just a few weeks ago. He was an incredibly affectionate person.
But, of course, I must talk about papa’s energy.
He was exuberant. He was magnificent. Where others held back, he went all out. He always bought too much food. Made sure our wine glasses were full. He made adventures of everything: of vacation, of taking a walk, of getting pastries in the morning.
He was, as mama says, a comet. Gugonya, his mother, says he had a motor in his ass.
Sometimes I wonder where all that energy has gone now that he’s passed. But when I look at Eamon and Leo, I think I know.
Papa had no trouble matching toddler energy. Maybe he even topped it.
Somehow, everything was exciting to him, and if it wasn’t, he made it exciting.
Once, papa told me we were going to walk up Mt Pinos, the tallest peak in Ventura County. We were dressed in shorts. On our way up, we passed people coming down, who were wearing snow gear and gave us concerned and puzzled looks. We had no idea why until we got much higher. I don’t know if we got to the top or not, but after an hour or so we realized that we were freezing cold. We looked at each other and sprinted back down the mountain.
Once, we were hiking in the woods in Oregon. Eventually, we somehow realized we were walking on a bear’s trail. To my relief he agreed to turn around. He did have his limits.
How did this guy have so much more energy than his children, even though he was 30 years older than us? I wondered this often, thinking that something must be wrong with me. I only realized fairly recently that genuinely almost no one is like this. Papa was unique.
Sometimes I was frustrated by all his energy, all the adventures, but now I am glad to have been on every one.
In July, he messaged me to say that he had an unexpected layover in London tomorrow, and we should meet up. So I took Eamon and met him at Gatwick airport. We took the train together to Brighton, a beach town, and I took papa to a seafood shack I had been hoping to show him.
Of course, papa didn’t order mussels or crab like I intended. He ordered something called jellied eel, which I think even most British people would agree is revolting. Papa made a mission to eat all five eels, convincing me the entire time that they were actually delicious and that I should try one. (I did – it wasn’t that good!)
After that we chased Eamon around on the beach for a bit and took the train to Gatwick and said goodbye. All in all, I think we spent three hours together.
I came home that day, and I thought: one day papa will die. And I will wish that I could spend just three more hours with him. And I knew, even then, somehow, that those three hours in Brighton were exactly that.
Finally, I’d like to say something to mama. Mama, I have lost my father, but you have lost your partner. I feel your pain. At the same time, despite your pain, this week you have been a source of strength, stability, and comfort. Thank you mama.
And I’d also like to thank you all again for being here, for sharing in our pain, yes, but also our celebration of papochka.