Dan McAuliffe died last Friday morning, March 12. So this world has been almost one whole week without him. And I’m not entirely confident how the world will fare in his absence.

Immediately upon learning that Dan had passed, I knew we had to publish a piece, even if it had to be a short one, in the very next issue of Arizona Attorney. Sure, he had been a State Bar President, but he was also an author, an ethics expert, a mentor, an adviser, an educator. And to many, many who knew him, he was a friend. We had to do a story, and soon.

So that was the efficient side of myself.

As the week wore on, though, I found myself immersed in the sundry other tasks that can take up my work life. I edited other copy. I spoke with authors about upcoming stories. I talked with magazine staff about a scheduled photo shoot. I straightened—and then re-cluttered—my desk.

But I resisted starting this task of penning a short memorial to Daniel J. McAuliffe. I engaged my brain in the task, but in more fits than starts. My gaze would drift from the information I had gathered about Arizona’s dean of legal ethics, and I would stare out the window at passing traffic.

That was another side of myself.

Understand, avoiding work is not entirely uncharacteristic of writers. There is always some excuse to delay the hard work ahead. And when a writer has himself for an editor, yikes, it can get almost mutinous, with the lazy writer strolling to get another coffee while complaining about his garret-like office, and the seething editor about this close to taking a red pen to his personnel roster.

But I could tell that this delay was different. I knew what it would be to call and interview those who knew and cared for Dan—it would be a privilege. And yet still I hesitated. And I’ve done this job long enough to know why.

Writing can be illustrative, by revealing something unique or otherwise unseen in everyday interactions. And in that way, it’s great. But it also is reductive—capturing moments, snapshots of a person, and hoping to God that they are representative of the whole. Who knows if you get it right? The writer is rarely sure. But at least, the writer consoles himself, there’s always another story coming around the bend.

But the world is a busy place, and though volumes could (and hopefully will) be written about Dan McAuliffe, they may not be written by me. This may be my last privileged moment to get Dan right.

The great writer Anne Lamott recalled a story that helped her on those damned-words-won’t-come days. When she was growing up, her brother sat frustrated at the dining room table, struggling with a school project. Their father asked what he was working on, and her brother replied that he had to do a report on the birds of North America. He was flummoxed by such an endeavor, overwhelmed by the massive task. Finally, he asked his dad for advice. “How do I do this?” he whined. Their father grew pensive, and then answered with the maddening truth. “Bird by bird,” he said. “Bird by bird.”

And so I will take my own job, step by step. Tomorrow, I’ll start with the simple building blocks of any story. And I’ll call those who can tell me, through their grief, something essential about a remarkable man. I’ll take notes, perhaps make connections. And maybe the profound insights of his friends and colleagues, stitched together wearily with my own conjunctions and transitions, will give readers a tiny keyhole peek into what made Dan Dan.

Meantime, I look with not a little sorrow at my calendar, where a recurring reminder hovers on March 27. That is Dan’s birthday, and I had been looking forward to calling him and wishing him a great day. Another delay of mine, I suppose—one that I regret even more.

Time to get to work.