Pray without ceasing. Even when you don’t mean it.
This is raw and unrefined and I may come to refine it later–and I may not. I just don’t know. For your information:
This is not an obituary. I’ve written those. They are measured and temperate. This is not.
Edd Hendricks died in a maelstrom of rage and defiance. Of anger infused with self-righteous indignation. Or was that me? Edd was the quintessential embodiment of a man more sinned against than sinning.
Edd Hendricks died peacefully in his sleep in the most absurd and apropos of places, a motel room in Gallup, New Mexico.
He was 48 years old. And he had been wracked with illness for many years–but none of it, we thought, was deadly.
He was among my very best friends. We had a difficult and, at times, tumultuous, relationship. And yet we loved each other like brothers and we stood by each other–for all of it, even when we didn’t.
Grief, in the form of trauma, consumes me now and these words are as broken as my fettered heart and as heavy as my exhausted steps, weighed down as they are by the shock, sadness, desolation, faithlessness and devastation that I feel.
I stood up for him at his wedding and he stood up for me at mine. The music that defined his life began to define mine. I was never a musician, but that was an indifferent fact–and it didn’t matter because Edd was a musician enough for both of us, for all of us. He took both Chris Ulm and me and turned the three of us into a band, a working rock band playing clubs and parties and mostly practicing and expressing ourselves through cover songs, then originals, giving us each what we needed musically, then personally, so that we might be better–or at least, good enough. I wrote a song after my college roommate was murdered and Edd set it to music. It became, he said, his favorite song in the set of original songs we wrote. I called it “This Life:”
Please shed some light on my last day’s dying breath
Can I please go home now? Can I get some rest?
I just want to miss him the way that I do now.
Can I please be human? Can you show me how?
I’ve known Edd for 29 years. In the past year, he lived a mile away from my house and we spent more time together especially and unfortunately at the hospital several times over this past year as he was in for one thing or the other. I know Edd. He’s watching me write this right now wondering why I’m not being funnier–why I’m not being understated and self-effacing, a craft he’d mastered long ago. It was his most attractive and most decadent quality. No one was more creative than Edd. Just ask him. He would tell you how bad he is.
This is just to say: Edd didn’t die young. His soul was very old indeed. He wore the countenance and the provenance of a much older man, but he had more in common with young children than any man I ever knew. He was patient and mild and he hardly ever raised his voice. But when he raised it at me, because I deserved it, I knew that it was authentic.
He loved people in ways that I envy and try to emulate. He loved his wife, his boys, his dogs, his friends. He loved unconditionally and saw that people’s rough edges were merely reflections and battle scars and he never held anyone to account for them. He was full of grace–he had grace popping out of his ears, mouth, eyes and nose and at times, his fingers and toes.
In the last year, he had written down–and would say to me, “I’m pretty sure God has a sense of humor. I’m just trying to understand it now.” His body was breaking down and he was in pain.
I caught a terrible glimpse, a prophecy of his passing, a year ago or so when he was in the hospital suffering from pericarditis and fluid collecting around his lungs. The pain he suffered didn’t let him move very much or very well and for several days, he lay in bed, getting up only for the most basic functions. That’s when the condition hit and he was hospitalized. While he was there, I went to visit shortly after he’d been medicated pretty heavily. He couldn’t really talk, he was slow to respond and in the middle of a sentence, he simply drifted off. He was still, silent and lay with his mouth open, perhaps forming the word that had been just on the tip of his tongue. It frightened me to see him that way. I put my hand on his head and leaned in to kiss him. I left him a note saying I had been there and later that night, we talked by phone.
The last time I saw him was three days before he passed. He and Leanne, his mother and his boys were busily packing along with movers and other friends were at the house getting the boys situated to fly off to their new home in Colorado. I’d written him a note and I have a feeling I’ll always be glad I did–though I am unsure if he read it. I put it in a copy of David McCullough’s book Brave Companions and gave it to him, told him to read it on the road…
That was Edd’s favorite place, you know? I was lucky enough to take at least three major road trips with Edd. He was an Edd in his natural habitat when he was behind the wheel of a car. He loved driving and he knew cars, though I wouldn’t call him a gearhead. He was less concerned with the mechanics of them than he was with driving them. Cold mornings against pale blue skies and early sunrises with Western Mountains in sharp relief, I was fortunate enough to share road-time, cheap motel and restaurant time and drive-time with him. He was content–the journey was the destination and the destination didn’t matter. Edd was at the wheel-the weather was indifferent and right now was what mattered.
He was a monster musician. A multi-instrumentalist whose passion for guitar and writing were incomparable and his eclectic musical tastes were the stuff of legend. In college, he had the best radio show on the campus station because he’d play music that no one ever heard of, but loved–and then he’d play Freebird by Skynyrd.
He wore epic t-shirts in college that caused you to laugh so hard when you saw him that you’d have to recover yourself before you spoke to him. One shirt said, “What are you looking at, Dicknose?” And I suppose that today, such a shirt would offend someone and they’d go crying to some authority somewhere. When Edd wore it, you couldn’t help but laugh and I don’t remember anyone ever taking offense.
Because Edd embodied love more than most people I know and because he made choices I didn’t always agree with, I found myself even more attracted to his friendship. He was a mythological character with equal measures of strength and weakness and he never allowed himself to be defined by any of it. He was struggling, not just physically, but metaphysically. He wondered where he belonged and what he should pursue as his life’s work, but you see that’s where I’m on a bit more solid ground today, much more so than I expected to be.
Because Edd’s life work was love and its most vibrant and creative expression to people who he believed deserved it most–and to people he knew deserved it least. I loved him for it and I miss him, the world misses him.
I know God has a sense of humor. And I’m still trying to understand it.