This has been a year of severity and its only half over. I took another walk on the beach last week similiar to the other one I took just a few months ago. This time to process the loss of my brother-in-law Ed whose short illness ended so abruptly. After losing two family members is such a short time span, its really disorienting when so far away. I wonder if this is what growing older is about: to carry the memories of people who can no longer help me remember our mutual past. I have somehow less of myself as well as less of them.
I met Ed when I was 9 years old when we lived in a tiny town in West Virginia which would be hard to find even on a clear day with a good map. He started hanging around with my sister Susan and before you knew it they went and got married. I was a small bridesmaid in the small ceremony. They were the first couple to get married on the new carpeting in the chapel at First Baptist Church of the neighboring big town of Princeton. Ed wore a blue tuxedo which was, and by some accounts, still is, classy. He and my sister moved into the ‘marriage units’ at the local college where he was studying biology and she, art. These were efficiency apartments and I found them fascinating. I remember watching them open some of their wedding gifts there. When you are both 19 and newly married this is a big deal. Because this was a few decades before the idea of ‘internet gift registry’ took hold, they managed to receive no less than four ‘dish sets’. These were the kinds of things one might have bought at ‘Hills’; very useful but not necessarily something one can use that many of. Ed was a swimmer at Concord, said local college, and was quite talented. His records might still be unbroken but I’m not sure. He was so much at home in the water he actually swam a few times in the questionable waters of a small pond below our house which provided a few blue gills for us kids who threw a line in on occasion. At some point the year before they got married, Ed met Jesus one day on campus. Now this was the 70‘s and many men looked like Jesus, but unlike them, this was the Jesus that resides in one’s soul when so invited.
Some part of my grief for Ed’s passing is the fact that he occupied part of this very rich and textured chapter of my life called ‘Athens’ (because many states in America have an ‘Athens’, many people share this sentiment.) The Athens chapter ended after three years and all my siblings went their separate ways including me; moving with Mom and Dad to the big city of Washington, a place for which love never really developed. Ed went on to become a airplane mechanic, first for Piedmont Airlines and then US Air which bought Piedmont back in the day. Now, he is flying again without any need of mechanic or pilot. On eagle’s wings he has been bourne to the Shepherd of his soul.