My friend passed away this week. It’s the polite way of saying he died, an easy way to express and digest it without harsher emotions and pain attached to it. He passed away. It’s like a boat sailing into a sunset, going on a journey, out of sight beyond an horizon, but really still there.
Ed was eighty-nine. He had a brain tumor. Actions were taken, but the body is the body.
He had a spectacular intelligence and a sharp sense of humor. I was flattered to know him and pleased that he sought my company. We always had lively conversations. Since I’ve known him, he’s had white and gray hair, with a receding hair line, and a gray and white riotous beard. His daughter included a photo of him from his youth. Turned out he used to be a blond, handsome man, a far reach from the fellow I knew in appearance. Yet, the resemblance beyond the superficialities of hair and beard was clearly there.
After gaining his PhD from Stanford, he joined NASA in the mid 1960s and was with them until he retired a few decades later. He was less involved with manned space exploration and more engaged with sending satellites out to find information and send it back.
In one sense, we’ve been expecting Ed’s death, in one form or another, since he was born. In another, it took him sooner than we hoped, and we wonder if it’s the curse of 2020.
I know that he’s not the only one who died this week, and that his life and death was much better than what many experience. His daughter informed us of Ed’s death on Wednesday.
“So last night mom went in to chat with dad. His breathing for 48 hours had been in the labored, raggedy stage. But he opened his eyes and they sparkled and he smiled. Mom chattered to him and told him it was ok if it was time for him to go. They had walked a lifetime together. She loved him but could let him go. I came in after to sit the rest of the evening not realizing what mom had said and told him “You’ve climbed a lot of mountains, and this has been a grand adventure of a life, it’s time to finish this final climb. We will walk it all the way to the end with you.” One tear rolled down his eye and about two minutes later I watched him hold his breath, carrying what had become a common pause in breathing, just a little further, and he was gone. He took it before it took him. And that’s the way he wanted it.He set the tone for all of us all the way along this last one year+. And I promise you he spent a lot of time over those 6 days, mostly pain free, sitting as an observer to this final unfolding, with his always enthusiastic and curious mind. He showed no struggle, no despair, no sadness. He fully leaned in to the enitre journey. I think he just would have liked it to go a little longer. But no regrets.”
I always wonder what happens after death, spiritually, but also along the lines of quantum existence. If there is something more, I’m sure Ed will make the most of it. If not, he led a life here worthy of being emulated and celebrated.
Either way, damn, I will miss him.