There are nights when only the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.
My friend Earl died last night. I feel the loss as the cold and darkness which comes when a bright light is extinguished.
I met Earl in 1980. Some of those who influenced him also became part of my life, others remained unknown. In the main, the forces which shaped his life and made him the uncommon man he was would never be part of my life.
He smoldered with a kind of rage he commanded to compel justice for the underdog. Appearing humorless to the passerby,Earl had a boundless sense of fun. Capable of enormous personal austerity, Earl was tremendously generous to those in need, to those with want, in his family, to his friends, to those in his community, to those in his charge, to strangers, even at times, towards his adversaries. His was not merely a generosity of dollars,but of spirit and heart, of time and thought, of physical labor and anonymous offering.
Through the years, I came to understand that Earl was not an acquired taste. He could be polarizing. He was one of those rare individuals who remained fully and visibly himself. One did not need to venture a guess as to Earl’s opinion,he would state his beliefs honestly and openly. He despised hypocrisy. As such,he had his detractors; there were many who expected a more “diplomatic” man. But, Earl was a flagrant progressive democrat in those long gone days when it was fashionable until the last moments of his consciousness, and proudly so.He simply could not be anything else. Earl was authentic. He lived in accord with his principles while living well.
In my life, Earl was like an older brother or watchful cousin, certainly more than a friend. When we met, his life was settled and established, he with a daughter not much younger than myself. Where his domain was neat, organized, structured, well regulated, predictable, mine must have appeared the opposite. Yet, he took a chance and engaged me professionally, and then, more valuable, allowed me entry to his life. Tonight, my heart is full of memories of dinners, and picnics,of Christmas celebrations. I see Earl holding my babies with especial tenderness. I recall beaches, boats, fishing tackle and lengthy talks over cool drinks on hot summer nights.I remember weddings and parties and Earl cracking jokes on the dance floor, “Arthur Murray” he would tell me as he seemed to float past me on a cloud of air. I see his confused concern that my “vegetarian ” dinner is tasty enough as everyone else dives into their prime rib. I hear him telling me, “Good job Ma-tricia.” I miss him again and already and always.
Earl stands apart in my life with those few, exceptional and principled men who distinguished themselves in all they did not least because they assiduously dedicated themselves to the welfare of their families: the love of wife and children was the polestar for every act.
I feel tremendously sad that Earl is lost to me. I sorrow for my remaining friends, his wife and children to whom his life was well and truly devoted.
It is not consolation for the loss but it is celebration of the life to observe that Earl’s great gift was living well. His was a life well lived in service to others,stranger and beloved, with humor, intelligence, emotion and grace through each phase of life.
Honoring his gift, Earl has left us a blueprint for living to which I hope we return.