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If you could have dinner with one person who is no longer with us, and whose obituary was published in The New York Times, who would it be, and why that person?Not Forgotten is asking that of influential people this summer in a series of posts called Breaking Bread.I was 10 when I read my father’s obituary in The New York Times. It gave a few details of his life, but it didn’t tell me what I really wanted to know: How could he have died? As a teenager I used to imagine that he had written me a letter, and every birthday I secretly hoped it would arrive.The paper was lying on the kitchen counter, and I was startled to see his face staring up at me as I passed by. The letter would be full of fatherly advice, and tell me all the things I didn’t know about him.We wandered back into a fatal Alaskan odyssey and over the rainbow.We heard the echoes of shots that reverberated in America and around the world.Even now, when I see a stack of mail at home, I can’t help but hope the letter has finally come. I’d tell him about the choices I’ve had to make, the fears and difficulties I’ve struggled to overcome. My dad was 50 when he died, and I’ve always believed that I would die at that age as well.After a while, no matter how much you love someone, no matter how hard you try to remember, you start to forget little details — the sound of their voice, the way they smell, the look in their eyes when they smile and laugh. I just turned 49, and my doctor assures me I have many years yet to live.

He wrote about his father, Wyatt Cooper, a screenwriter and actor from Mississippi.

We mingled with criminals, leaders, protesters, artists and athletes, many who forever changed their professions.

We relived the first steps on the moon and the speech that divided India and Pakistan.

If I could see my father just once more, sit down and talk with him, look into his crystal blue eyes, feel the safety of his arms around me, I would give anything for that. So if I could see my father one last time, I’d be sure to ask him the most important question of all: What should I do next? How should I live out these years I never expected to have, these years he never lived to see?

Terry Fincher/Getty Images;, via Reuters; Jacques Langevin, via Associated Press; Press Association, via Associated Press; Erich Auerbach, via Getty Images; Damon Winter, via The New York Times; John Lent, via Associated Press;, via Associated Press Thanks for joining us this summer as we revisited some of the 200,000 memorable lives featured in The New York Times’s archive.And we asked Anderson Cooper, Cory Booker, Dominique Dawes, Tom Brokaw and David H.


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