For Eddy, An Essay
by Mack Burgess
As of this writing, a dear friend’s body rests peacefully in a hospital bed in Gainesville, Florida. Though his heart is beating and his lungs are breathing, there is no life to speak of there. It’s sad and confusing, and makes my soul heavy and my head hard to think. Strictly speaking, I do not understand what constitutes “life,” but what I know is that mine and many others’ have now an indescribable emptiness that will remain agape for the rest of our lives.
The tragic thoughts and visions of my friend’s death are still very fresh in my head, and perhaps now is much too early to try to wield any meaning out of the whole terrible experience, but frankly, writing is the only kind of therapy that has ever done me any good. This is hardly light reading material and I understand if this isn’t the kind of thing you’re looking for here, but if you so care, I’d like to share with you some thoughts on that awful day and what one might take away.
People that go so young and so soon leave an incredible, albeit tragic, impact on those around them. It makes you think extremely hard about their life and what it means for the rest of us. When tragedy strikes, we all reach desperately around in the dark for something to grab; something to hold onto that gives the whole awful experience some kind of meaning. I don’t know if I’ve found it yet, and perhaps I never will. All I can do is live a life my dear friend would have wanted me to live.
I don’t know whether he is in a “better place,” as spiritual folks often like to say. I know it makes me feel a great deal better to think so. And I think if such a place exists, he is certainly there. But if there’s anything dear Eddy wanted us to focus on, it was THIS place. The place he loved with all his being. The place for which he made incredible and inspiring sacrifices. The place on which we live.
This place is now missing someone that made it a great deal better. It’s incomprehensible how someone who loved and cared for this place so much had to leave it so early. Eddy was a steward of the planet earth; a shepherd. He taught me a lot about what it means to really live here; to coexist. And hopefully, if anything positive is to come from his tragic and premature departure, it will be that others will observe his example, and learn to treat this place with the same love and care that poured from Eddy’s soul onto the small, green earth.
We no longer have dear Eddy. What we have are wonderful thoughts and memories, and what is life if not these precious breaths of mind? What is life if not a recollection of experience? Whether or not he resides in that better place that makes us all feel so much better about earthly departure to invoke, Ryan Edwards is eternal in the thoughts and memories he’s left behind. We will think of him often and with all the fondness of his spirit. Not the way he was, but the way is. Ryan Edwards was life in the most real and meaningful way. I am him. And so are you.
I feel blessed and cursed to have been with him in his final moments. This kind of thing takes a toll on a person, I’ve come to find, and while I don’t want the focus of this to be on me at all, I feel compelled to share some thoughts on what my dear friend might like me to say in his place:
Live within your means. Take what you need and then give. Care not just for things and people living now, but for those living here in the future. Life is about togetherness and community. In short, live for others. The rest is bull****.
These are rough recollections of things he often said. His countless friends will attest. He had an incredible way of imparting fundamental truisms between the bogus and self-centered conversations that so often plagued the rest of us. His favorite word might have been “sustainable,” which, in his final days he made sure I understood meant “capable of lasting forever,” in the literal sense. He was passionate about organic agriculture and truly sustainable energy futures, and these are subjects on which we often spoke. Looking back, it moves me to think how badly he wanted us to understand perfectly the denotation of that word. Take from it whatever you will.
I’d like to remember him the way an old greek chose to remember his late friend. I found this poem and wept. How amazing is this ability, even so long ago, to capture what it feels like to lose a loved one. I suppose this feeling, too, might be sustainable.
“They told me, Heraclitus; they told me you were dead.
They brought me bitter news to hear, and bitters tears to shed.
I wept when I remembered how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking, and sent him down the sky.
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, they nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.”
Rest easy, dear friend. I love you.