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Inspirational Reads

Reflection of Disconsolation

October 1, 2009

"I find myself wondering about humanity. Their attitude to my sister's gift is so strange. Why do they fear the sunless lands? It is as natural to die as it is to be born. But they fear her. Dread her. Feebly they attempt to placate her. They do not love her."

--Dream, reflecting on his sister
Taken from Neil Gaiman's Sandman #8, The Sound of Her Wings.

There is a phrase that was originally Greek but got translated into Latin in the early part of the fifteenth century. De mortuis nil nisi bonum (dicendum est) is a phrase that, literally translated, means "Of the dead, speak nothing but what is good." Originally, it was meant to ward off vengeful spirits, angry that you were defaming them after they had died. In modern parlance, we tend to apply it toward saying only good things about a person when they've died, remembering that which made us happy and trying to either ignore or forget what made us sad or angry or any other negative thoughts. It's a phrase that could definitely be applied to this past summer as we sort of let slide accusations of child molestation and deadly drunk driving accidents.

In the context of my friend Eric, who was tragically taken from us on Tuesday morning when a car struck him while he crossed the street to get to work, it is a phrase that is somewhat accurate. If I were to say only what was good of Eric, here is what I would say:


Of course, when you think of someone who was tragically taken from you, someone you loved and cared for and whom you befriended, it's easy to say "he was such a nice guy" or "everyone loved him." In this case, it was very true.

Eric was one of those unique individuals who, no matter what he said, would make me smile. I could walk into the store and find him, he could look up at me, and say "Fuck you, ugly!" and I'd still smile. Of course, he would never do that. He always had a kind word or a quirky joke or an off-beat pop-culture reference to toss in your direction, and one that would, invariably, make me smirk and chortle at the somewhat obscure reference he had just dropped.

But, the street went two ways. I could make an obscure cult fiction or cult film reference and Eric would either smile and offer a small, genuine laugh or shake his head--still smiling--and tell me "that was terrible." He was someone whom I sought out in the store, someone whom, if I knew he was there, I would stop to say hi to, no matter how badly my kids were bothering me to go to the children's section or how quickly I needed to get something to my wife. I'd stop and give him a couple seconds, and he would return me the favor.

Moreso than just being a friend, he was a good human being. He was the silent engineer who crawled through the belly of life, making sure the cogs were oiled, the gears were lubed, and that the mechanics were in good working order. I'm sure at times he was exhausted of all he did, of all he was asked to do, but he never complained. He loved to help others. I'm sure that, if you asked it, he would have willingly given you the shirt off his back.

Well, maybe not his awesome Venture Brothers shirt with the Monarch on it. I only know this because I tried to get him to give it to me. I was unsuccessful in my attempt to fleece him of a treasured pop cultural garment.

To know Eric was to like him, and while he was single and had no children, the store at which he worked was his family--or, at least, they thought of him as a part of their family. In the wake of his passing, stunned folks reflected on how much he had meant to them. To some, he was a best buddy, to others, it was like losing a brother or a son. For all of us, we lost a true friend.

While I sit here, hammering out the emotion that has welled within me for the past two days, one key stroke at a time, I feel that these words, these letters I've tried to arrange into a pretty, moving, emotional eulogy only serve as a disservice. No simple words can capture what he meant to his friends, family, co-workers; you would have had to have known him, to have met him, to truly understand and appreciate what a tragic loss we have endured.

And yet, I have completed what I set out to do. While I've finally released the pent up emotion that has darkened my skies since yesterday morning--perhaps a selfish gesture in and of itself--Eric is no longer a nameless victim residing on the crawl at the bottom of the screen during the local news report. He is now identified, not only in name, but for what he was: a friend. A true, honest, kind-hearted friend who would do anything for you (except give you his Monarch t-shirt) and smile while he was doing it. And to let him--someone--know that he will be missed by me and all the others who had the good fortune to have had their lives touched and enriched by his presence.

Good bye, my friend. Your time upon this world was tragically short, your time with us terribly abbreviated. But I am thankful I had the opportunity to know you.

Anyway: I'm not blessed or merciful. I'm just me. I've got a job to do and I do it. Listen: even as we're talking, I'm there for old and young, innocent and guilty, those who die together and those who die alone. I'm in cars and boats and planes, in hospitals and forests and abattoirs. For some folks death is a release and for others death is an abomination, a terrible thing. But in the end, I'm there for all of them.

--Death, discussing how different people see her
Taken from Neil Gaiman's Sandman #20: "Fa├žade"

I realize it's kind of silly to toss in the quotation by Death from a work of fiction, but for some reason, it's strangely consoling to me to think that this hip rock 'n roll chick was there with Eric when he died, consoling him some and taking him onto the next life.


Sass said...

I will be cliched and say, that was beautiful mjenks.

And I'm thinking of you.

Mala said...

A wonderful tribute to your friend indeed.

My thoughts are with you and his other friends and family.

Cora said...

Oh Mjenks, I'm so very sorry.

I lost a family friend who was struck by a car from behind several years ago. I know how that feels.


erin said...

Beautiful mjenks!
So sorry about your friend. You did him justice in this post.

I love Gaiman too.

Scope said...

Nothing really to say that hasn't been said. Just wanted to leave my mark and let you know that we share, however smally, in your loss.

Bev said...

I'm so sorry. Eric sounds like a wonderful person, and I'm just so sorry he was taken from you all so soon.

Beautiful post. I hope you find peace. ((hugs))

Harmony said...

" He was the silent engineer who crawled through the belly of life, making sure the cogs were oiled, the gears were lubed, and that the mechanics were in good working order." ~ Absolutely amazing.

These letters have been strung quite perfectly, if you ask me. I feel a little bit lost for not having known such a beautiful person. I have to say, that the image of that hip rock 'n roll chick being there for you friend made me grin. A touching post with a smile at the end? Perfection!

BeckEye said...

That was a wonderful tribute - genuinely funny and moving.

LiLu said...

This is beautiful. I'm so, so sorry. My thoughts are with you and his family.

Jeney Peney said...

There is absolutely nothing silly about including Sandman's Death in this post. Thinking that her snarky, sassy self will be there when I go is what comforts me about the idea of dying.

This was a wonderful and moving post...

Chemgeek said...

We all have "Erics" in our lives. Sadly, it takes something like the loss of one to make us appreciate them. I'm sorry you lost your friend.

Soda and Candy said...

That was really cool mjenks. I hope someone likes me enough to write something like that about me when I go.

PS - I don't think it was silly at all, I bet it was exactly the kind of thing Eric liked.

otherworldlyone said...

A great memorial.

Cowguy said...

Jenks... a beautiful tribute to your friend. I just had this happen a couple of weeks ago with my friend Scott.

I can say it'll ease up for you tomorrow or the next day... but it won't. You'll miss him more and more and your life will fill with other things that your life deals out, and then suddenly something will happen. A small event, a phrase spoken, or you'll see a person on the street that resembles him... and for a fleeting moment you'll forget, and the emotions will flow heavily when your brain kicks in gear and tells you that that's not him. The longing for your friend, wishing you could hold one more moment just bullshitting with him, give him a hug, and stumble on with life.

Scott enters my mind several times a day since his death, and always ALWAYS wanders to the times we had. Hunting, traveling, being total dumbasses together, laughter and I still miss him, but I'm smiling.

Peace to you Jenks. Peace to your heart.


Nej said...

I'm without words, but wanted to check in tell you again how sorry I am this had to happen. The words you wrote were beautiful - it matters not that they came from a work of fiction.

Frank said...

That was a beautifully moving entry...sometimes words fail us in such situations, but given the circumstances, you did a damn fine job.

JenJen said...

I know, there are no words when trying to describe how much someone means to you.
You managed to find the right ones and show us humanity through your unique ability to write what you feel.
It sounds like Eric knew you well.

Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

I'm not really sure how to respond this post, other than to say that it was really....right. I'm not sure that I'm making myself understood was just right.

Sassy Britches said...

I am sure Eric would be honored to have heard your tribute to him. You've done him a great service. Hugs to you, and I hope you and all involved find peace.

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