In Memory of My Wife, Dana Joy Hyde
March 17, 2023
Two weeks ago, my wife, younger son, and I were visiting schools in New England. We were returning home when our plane suddenly convulsed in a manner that violently threw the three of us. My wife was badly injured. The pilots made an emergency landing. An ambulance was waiting. Dana was taken to a hospital, but the injuries were too severe, and she died that night.
Dana was the best person I ever knew. She was a wonderful mother to our boys, and she was accomplished professionally. Born in rural eastern Oregon to a single teenage mother, Dana was provided with only one advantage – a loving grandmother who raised her. She worked her way through college and law school, and rose to positions at two White Houses, the Justice Department, State Department, Office of Management and Budget, and became the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). She helped establish the African Leadership University and worked at Jerusalem Venture Partners. That’s a real resume.
Though Dana came from nothing, in the course of her life she advised presidents and kings. And she never forgot her small town eastern Oregonian roots. Her values were described by a former colleague last week as Dana’s bedrock principles:
Between the top dog and the underdog, you always choose the underdog.
Between grace and grit, you always choose grit.
Between pain and laughter, you always choose laughter.
Between doing nothing and doing something, you do something.
Between the truth and shading the truth, you always choose the truth.
Between the spotlight and the houselights, you choose the houselights so everyone else can shine.
Between big things and small things, you never forget the small things.
Between ego and service, you always choose service.
Between love and loving fiercely, choose to love fiercely.
Between family and strangers, you expand the definition of family.
Dana approached her jobs with love, fierce, determined love. Her desire to help people was evident in her career choices. She was understandably proud of the work of the MCC investing in the infrastructure of underdeveloped nations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. She loved and was beloved.
Over the past two weeks, so many of Dana’s colleagues have written me stories. I’ll share one:
“...the one that brings the biggest smile to my face is our trip to Ethiopia in 2015. As we were prepping, she learned of an orphanage in Addis Ababa that provides support services for children affected by HIV. For weeks before we left, she collected clothes and toys from everyone she knew. After we arrived, she had everything loaded into a big van, and we headed to the orphanage. After meeting with the director, we opened the van and began pulling bags and bags from the trunk. The kids were amazed! They’d never seen so much stuff! There was singing and dancing and laughing. They were so happy. The joy was palpable, the smiles so big. I'll remember their faces forever.”
While in college, Dana spent a year studying in Israel. In the course of her career, she worked in Israel. Dana fell in love with the country, the language, and the people. So, we decided to lay her to rest in that special place.
My sons have lost their mother in a tragic accident. When I was young, I, too, lost my mother in tragic circumstances. I know that grieving takes a long time, sometimes a lifetime.
During my older son’s eulogy, he dismissed the notion that you should live each day as if it is your last. “I now realize that’s wrong,” he said, “You should live each day as if it’s the last of someone you love.”
As for me, as my sons and I bear the weight of our sorrow, I choose to adopt Dana’s approach to life:
Help others, and love, fiercely and unapologetically.