Owen Maitzen (1997-2021)

My son Owen died yesterday, December 30 2021. He took his own life calmly and courageously, after a family Christmas celebration that was full of laughter, games, and music. We parted that night with warm hugs and warm words: the last thing he said to me was “I’m just so full of love.” Although we are heartbroken to lose him and will miss and mourn him forever, there is comfort in knowing that for him, this is the ending he wanted to his long and often very painful struggle with depression, and that he was both very sure and very happy at the end.


There is so much I could say about Owen, who was the most brilliant, creative, and talented person I have ever known. He was loving and generous, hilarious and principled, difficult and inspiring. His mind was lightning fast; he loved wordplay and linguistic absurdity and could recite entire episodes of ‘Epic Rap Battles of History’ and ‘Bad Lip Reading’ from memory. He loved numbers and mathematics, and one of his last completed projects was an astonishing video about Hackenbush, combinatorial game theory, and surreal numbers which he conceived, scripted, programmed, and recorded entirely by himself. He was a prolific and original composer; he left a legacy of hundreds of acoustic and electronic compositions. He loved nothing in his life more than spending time with his sister Maddie: their hilarity and ingenuity when they collaborated on improvs, music, and games always filled their parents’ hearts with wonder and happiness.

Inevitably, fragments of poems have been coming to me ever since he left us. Stop all the clocks. Remember me when I am gone away. Smart lad, to slip betimes away. Farewell thou child of my right hand and joy. They mean everything and nothing when it’s your own loss. Right now, the line I keep returning to is “Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d.” My love and my grief feel boundless right now; they are the same. I want to remember him with happiness. I really do think that’s what he wanted. It is such grace that he left us feeling love and loved.

Owen’s formal obituary is here.


Thanksgiving 2021

65 thoughts on “Owen Maitzen (1997-2021)

  1. Jeanne December 31, 2021 / 9:45 am

    And such grace in being able to write about it with such a hole in your heart. Condolences.


  2. Susan Murphy December 31, 2021 / 9:57 am

    I fear my own son may be taking this path too and I hope my grief is the great understanding that your poignant writing describes.

    I’m heartily sorry that this world failed your talented son. 😔


  3. peterleyland December 31, 2021 / 9:58 am

    I am so sorry to read this Rohan having followed your posts this year and my heart breaks for you and your family. From Peter


  4. Miss Bates December 31, 2021 / 10:55 am

    Rohan, there are no words … other than may your son’s memory be eternal and, as we chant, in my faith, may he and your family find solace “in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away.” May your hearts be comforted in his memory. You are ever in my prayers. “Goodnight, sweet Prince … “

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Di (Yee) December 31, 2021 / 11:28 am

    Oh I’m so sorry for your loss, Rohan.


  6. Ian Stewart December 31, 2021 / 11:32 am

    Oh Rohan. I cannot imagine the pain.
    I remember Owen making beautiful music with Maddie at the Seaport Market. Hoping our kids could emulate.
    So courageous of you to write this. Thank you.


  7. Jitka December 31, 2021 / 11:40 am

    Your loss must be beyond comprehension. Sincere condolences. But what a graceful and loving tribute to your son. I admire the strength you must have mustered to write this, so soon after his passing. May you find peace just as he found it in his own way.


  8. Kate December 31, 2021 / 12:01 pm

    So very sorry to read this, and wish you and hour family love and the light in the days to come.


  9. lawless December 31, 2021 / 12:01 pm

    I am so sorry. Words fail me otherwise, so *hugs* and peace.


  10. hopester99 December 31, 2021 / 12:03 pm

    I am so sorry. You found a way to speak this unspeakable loss. Even though I didn’t know Owen—and know you only through the medium of stories and thoughts about stories—your words bring him zinging to life in my mind. I will be thinking of you and your family as you mourn.


  11. Judith Asta Thompson December 31, 2021 / 12:10 pm

    As tears stream down my face, I am amazed and moved by the grace and strength of your writing. I trust that it will bring healing, as far as words can. I thank you for sharing and know that my thoughts are with you.


    • Rohan Maitzen January 3, 2022 / 6:38 pm

      Thank you so much, Judith.


  12. Daphna Kedmi December 31, 2021 / 12:11 pm

    I truly can’t find the words to express my deepest sorrow for you and your family, Rohan. In tribute to Owen, I looked at his website, listened to his beautiful music, and touched only a little bit on the immensely talented person he must have been.
    Despite the unfathomable sorrow, his last words to you were words of love to be treasured through your unimaginable grief. Thank you so much for sharing your pain with us, your blog followers, who although spread out around the globe, have, through literature, come to admire and sense a connection with you, albeit a virtual one. In my religion we say, may his memory be a blessing, and I am sure it will be.


  13. marymcevoyhoaggmailcom December 31, 2021 / 12:17 pm

    I’m heartbroken for you and your family. Wishing you peace and love in the days to come.


  14. Marina Sofia (@MarinaSofia8) December 31, 2021 / 12:18 pm

    I don’t really know what to say. I can’t even begin to imagine what a sense of loss you and your family are experiencing, or know how you had the strength to write this moving tribute. May your memories of him support you at this difficult time.


  15. Carolyn Ruane December 31, 2021 / 12:23 pm

    My condolences to you and family. I have enjoyed posting my thoughts on Bennett’s Old Wives Tales. Then I read your book reviews; I have since read some of them. Thank you for introducing me to them.

    Carolyn and the Arnold Bennett Society


  16. Readerlane December 31, 2021 / 12:42 pm

    I’m so sorry for your and your family’s loss of your dear son and for his pain. Depression is a terrible disease. Thinking of you all.


  17. Catherine (sparrowpost) December 31, 2021 / 12:42 pm

    Rohan, I am so sorry for your loss and for what you and your family are going through right now. I lost a friend to depression around the same time last year and I believe that these beautiful, talented souls finally find the release from pain and the peace that they so deeply deserved. Your son left many beautiful memories behind. Thank you for sharing some of these.


  18. Amateur Reader (Tom) December 31, 2021 / 12:44 pm

    Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
    Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
    Et, quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
    Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

    From “Demain dès l’aube,” Victor Hugo

    You and your family will be in our thoughts.


    • Rohan Maitzen January 2, 2022 / 5:07 am

      Those are beautiful lines, Tom; thank you.


  19. Readerlane December 31, 2021 / 12:45 pm

    I’m so sorry for your and your family’s loss of your dear son and for his pain. Depression is a terrible disease. You are all in my thoughts.


  20. Peter-Anthony Togni December 31, 2021 / 12:45 pm

    Our hearts are heavy for the loss of your beautiful son. You are in our prayers.


  21. Alexandra Fenton December 31, 2021 / 12:46 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss Dr. Maitzen, my thoughts are with you and your family.


  22. Clarissa Harwood December 31, 2021 / 12:50 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, Rohan. Owen sounds like a fascinating person, and I wish I had known him. My brother took his own life as well, so I have a tiny inkling of what you might be feeling. I will be thinking of and praying for your family for a long time to come.


  23. Frances Graham December 31, 2021 / 2:58 pm

    I’ve received your newsletter ever since I heard you years ago on the Sunday Edition radio program with Michael Enright. I was saddened to read about your loss. My sympathies for you and your family. ❤️🙏🏻


  24. JanetO December 31, 2021 / 3:19 pm

    What a shock to read your moving account of such sad news. Owen sounds delightful and his untimely passing must leave a large hole. I hope you and your family find comfort at this bleak time.


  25. Laura December 31, 2021 / 3:34 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, but find hope in the comfort you have found in knowing that your son is at peace.


  26. Liz December 31, 2021 / 4:10 pm

    Dear Rohan, I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine the immensity of this loss. Sending the biggest hugs to you and your family –Liz


  27. dirk blevins December 31, 2021 / 5:49 pm

    Dear Rohan and Family. My heart is saddened by your loss. May you find solace in the words and arms of your friends and family. Dirk


  28. heatherajessup December 31, 2021 / 5:54 pm

    Dear Rohan,
    To give a child autonomy, respect, unconditional love, and support in their passions – this is what I aspire to as a relatively new parent and it is so hard. I can tell from your post how deeply you have given all of this to Owen. You have written about his life with such clear admiration, compassion, and love despite your unfathomable grief. I am holding you and your family in my thoughts. There are no proper words.


  29. Lisa Hill December 31, 2021 / 6:24 pm

    Oh Rohan, I am so very sorry to read this. Your son sounds like a wonderful young man. Please accept my condolences.


  30. Sunita December 31, 2021 / 6:29 pm

    Rohan, I am so, so sorry. You and your family have been in my thoughts since I first read your beautiful post this morning and they will continue to be. I rarely comment but always read, and I have so enjoyed hearing you talk about Owen and Maddie in your twitter feed over the years. Your love and caring for each other and as a family shone through.


  31. KeiraSoleore January 1, 2022 / 12:29 am

    Dear Rohan. I am so incredibly sorry to read this post. Owen was a beautiful soul and loved you all so much and made sure you knew that. I am glad you have many, many happy memories of him to keep his love alive in your heart. My deepest condolences to you, your husband, and Maddie.


  32. Tony January 1, 2022 / 2:20 am

    So sorry to hear this, Rohan 😦


  33. roughghosts January 1, 2022 / 6:19 am

    Dear Rohan. Your respect and love for your son is inspiring. As a parent, I can only imagine the pain that lies behind a loss like this and wish you and your family strength, grace and love as you move into the year ahead.


  34. Letitia Meynell January 1, 2022 / 10:13 am

    I am so sorry for this unimaginable loss for you and your family. There are no words adequate for the enormity of this kind of loss, though the best of poets can sometimes point in the direction. All I can do is offer condolences and say how very sorry I am.


  35. Sara Malton January 1, 2022 / 10:34 am

    Dear Rohan, I cannot fathom the extent of your loss and your grief. I am so very sorry. I always remembered how you spoke of Owen and his tremendous gifts when I first met with you during my early days in Halifax so many years ago. He was clearly deeply loved and deeply loving. There are just no words. My condolences to you and your family. I am so sorry. Sara


  36. Mary Lu Redden January 1, 2022 / 12:25 pm

    Rohan: What a beautiful tribute to your son. Your love for him shines through. I hope that love sustains you in your grief.


  37. Theresa Kaminski January 1, 2022 / 1:06 pm

    Deepest condolences, Rohan. Your son and your whole family are in my thoughts.


  38. Michael Hymers January 1, 2022 / 3:14 pm

    Dear Rohan, I am terribly to sorry to hear this news about Owen. I knew him only slightly and was not aware of his struggles. You paint a moving portrait of him. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for you and Steve. I offer my condolences to you both and to your daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Esther Schor January 1, 2022 / 3:30 pm

    I am sorry for your great loss, and full of wonder at your capacity to convey his beautiful spirit at such a time. May the new year bring your family comfort in companionship.


  40. Darlene Mott January 1, 2022 / 11:56 pm

    Owen sounds wonderful. Rest In Peace. My heart is heavy for your family.


  41. Rohan Maitzen January 2, 2022 / 9:54 am

    To everyone who has commented, your kind words and compassion mean more than we can say. Thank you so much.


  42. ellenandjim January 2, 2022 / 10:42 am

    Give sorrow words is easier said than done, for one wants appropriate words. To have lost this and your son, for him not to be able to see or find a way to carry on would for me go beyond numbing. When my husband died some 8 years ago (esophageal cancer inside 6 months devoured him), I found that a few books did help. The one that stands his is his Levels of Life the third chapter. Very hard.


    • ellenandjim January 2, 2022 / 10:42 am

      Julian Barnes’s book. i forgot to name the author.


  43. Liesl Gambold January 2, 2022 / 11:46 am

    I am so very sorry for your loss, Rohan, but so very appreciative of the love Owen both gave and experienced. While this is no salve for the pain, I hope it brings all of you some measure of relief from time to time.


  44. Suzannah Showler January 2, 2022 / 3:39 pm

    This is one of the kindest, hardest, most humane pieces of writing I’ve encountered. I’m grateful that you shared this, and I’m keeping you and your family in my thoughts.



  45. jmaitzen January 2, 2022 / 10:19 pm

    Dearest Rohan,

    I am so grateful to you and Steve for having the courage to share your memories of Owie with us all, he will never be forgotten. Such an amazing soul!

    I hope that the love that surrounds you will bring you some measure of comfort.


  46. Elaine Oswald January 3, 2022 / 7:47 am

    Rohan, please accept my deepest condolences. I am in the UK and have followed your blog for a few years. I feel as though I know you from your heartfelt struggles with making your teaching so fine and worthwhile. I am so very sorry for your loss, for the world’s loss of this brilliant and talented young man. Sometimes the universe seems very cruel. I hope your family can find solace in each other and good memories and knowing that he was happy and sure at the end. Hugs and prayers go out to you.


  47. Alice Brittan January 3, 2022 / 9:01 am

    Rohan, your loss is immeasurable. All I can say is that my heart is with you and your family and I’m here anytime you want to talk.


    • Rohan Maitzen January 3, 2022 / 11:43 am

      Thank you so much, Alice.


  48. shizzxo January 6, 2022 / 11:41 am

    This is so beautifully written. I have been thinking about your family constantly ever since I heard this news. I keep coming back to this and reading this heartbreaking post that is full of love. Owen was truly one of the most talented and intelligent people I had ever known – it always amazed me even when I was a young kid how capable and gifted he was. He has made such a large impact in this world and has left behind an incredible legacy. I have so many childhood memories of him and Maddie at your home that I will never forget! Sending my deepest condolences in this difficult time. With love, Shizza.


    • Rohan Maitzen January 6, 2022 / 12:16 pm

      Thank you so much, Shizza; those are precious memories, and you were a big part of them. You are in our hearts as well. xo


  49. Care January 9, 2022 / 8:53 am

    oh. I’m so sorry.


  50. Café Society January 12, 2022 / 4:33 am

    Rohan, I’ve only just become aware of your loss. I am so very sorry. Please know that although I’m not able to blog these days you are always in my mind and never more so than now. Keep safe.


    • Rohan Maitzen January 12, 2022 / 10:09 am

      Thank you so much: your sympathy means a lot. I hope you are doing OK.


  51. CLM (@ConMartin) September 27, 2022 / 9:31 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. I agree that you will think of him whenever those “check in on the children” and also happy family moments occur; however, you don’t want to NOT think of him either so I think the pain is part of the loss that does not end but maybe grows less like a dagger blow each time.


    • Rohan Maitzen October 1, 2022 / 7:53 am

      Thank you for your sympathy. You are right that I don’t want to not think of him either, as if that’s even an option, so getting used to the pain of it seems like the only way forward.


  52. Kal October 3, 2022 / 3:51 am

    I came across your son’s Hackenbush video, went to listen to his music channel, and discovered he had passed away from your comment there. I know you must have heard these words a hundred times in the last half year, but still, with all sincerity, I am deeply sorry for your loss.


    • Rohan Maitzen October 3, 2022 / 7:20 am

      Thank you, Kal; those are always kind words to say and comforting words to hear. That video brings him back to mind so vividly: the math, of course, but also the ingenuity and humor.


  53. Jim December 7, 2022 / 5:28 pm

    I came to your site for your comments on George Eliot — and noticed Owen’s photo. My heart goes out to you. I lost my own brother the same way. Our family has integrated his memory into the times when we gather together, in sorrow and in celebration of the time we did have with him. He is always remembered in love, even as we wish he were still here with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rohan Maitzen December 14, 2022 / 2:18 pm

      I appreciate that, Jim: I’m very sorry for your family’s loss.


  54. Oisín January 31, 2023 / 6:42 pm

    Rest in Peace Owen, I recently viewed his Hackenbush video which led to his improv work and I cried for the first time in years upon reading about his death. My only wish is that Owen’s work will be viewed and enjoyed more, I was upset at how little attention his Spotify and Youtube channels had and I will try to tell others about his work. I will always remember Owen despite having little to no connection with him. Rest in Piece Owen


    • Rohan Maitzen February 1, 2023 / 7:50 pm

      Thank you for your comment and your kind wish. He left such a remarkable legacy for someone who lived so few years. When I want to remember both how brilliant he was and how funny he was, I watch some of his Hackenbush video. It reflects the very best of him.


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