The Ruby community has lost a giant. As a programmer, I always feel as if I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Chris Seaton was one of those giants.
I’ve been working at the same company as Chris for the past 2 years. However, I first met him through the open source world many years ago. He was working on a Ruby implementation called TruffleRuby, and got his PhD in Ruby. Can you believe that? A PhD in Ruby? I’d never heard of such a thing. My impression was that nobody in academia cared about Ruby, but here was Chris, the Ruby Doctor. I was impressed.
As a college dropout, I’ve always felt underqualified. Embarrassment about my lack of knowledge and credentials has driven me to study hard on my own time. But Chris never once made me feel out of place. Any time I had questions, without judgement, he would take the time to explain things to me.
I’ve always looked up to Chris. I was at a bar in London with a few coworkers. We started talking about age, and I found out that Chris was much younger than me. I said “You’re so smart and accomplished! How can I possibly catch up to you?” Chris said “Don’t worry, I’ll just tell you everything I know!”
My team is fully remote, so every Friday we have a team meeting over video to just hang out and talk about stuff. Eventually I’ll make a really great pun, most people will sigh, Kevin Menard will get angry, and Chris would just be straight faced. No reaction from Chris. Every. Single. Time.
One time, someone asked Chris “do you know that he’s making a joke? Or do you just not think it’s funny?” Chris responded “I know he’s making a pun, I just don’t react because I don’t want to encourage him.” I said “This just encourages me more because now I feel challenged!”
I wish I had tried harder because now I’ll never get that reaction.
My last conversation with Chris was Thursday December 1st at RubyConf in Houston. We all went to dinner at a Ramen shop. I find British English to be extremely adorable, so any time I hear fun British phrases in the news I always ask my British coworkers about it. The latest one was “Wonky Veg” so I asked Chris if he’d been buying any at the store. He said no, but that one of his favorite things to do was find weird things at the local supermarket, take photos of it, then share with his coworkers. He flipped through photos on his phone, showing me pics of him shopping with his daughter. Some of the products he showed me were quite funny and we both had a good laugh.
I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with Chris.
I feel grateful for the time that we had together.
I feel angry that I can’t learn more from him.
I feel sad that he is gone from my life.
Chris was an important part of the community, his family, and his country. I will never forget the time I spent with Chris, a Giant.