“…Or you can love…”

The hand that reaches down to save you is never the one you expect. The salvation we seek looks so very different from how we’ve fashioned it in our imaginations–how we’ve worked over its edges and smoothed them with our memories and reflections of time.

A world without Edd Hendricks is a sad world for me. For the many days after I learned of his death, I cried uncontrollably at moments not of my choosing. It’s mornings I still fear most. Edd and I were morning creatures during these past few years. With his health issues and his young children and my career as a teacher, the early morning was time we spent together. We’d get bagels and coffee and during the winter months, it was dark at 6:00 am and the cool morning air and dew or light rain from the Pacific punctuated our meetings.

I loved these mornings more than I ever admitted to myself. I valued Edd’s friendship deeply and though we were unable to spend as much time together as we would have liked owed to schedules, Edd’s health issues and the like, a bagel and a coffee will never be the same for me. I haven’t had one since he passed–and I don’t know when I will again. I can’t bring myself to walk in the Old New York bagel shop in Camarillo. I’ll see him sitting there, I know I will. He’ll be scraping off the excess cream cheese, making a wry comment about something or other, giving me the latest joke from his dad, Tom–or talking about taking the kids, he called the “Bacon and the Egg,” to school.

I began to have meta conversations with myself at the end of May, wondering if grief continued to look this way. A friend at school likes to say, “grief is a tricky fellow…” and it’s the understatement of the year. I think about Leanne and Bacon and Egg all the time, still. I imagine that their grief makes mine a pale and shallow copy. And I know that a loving God is here somewhere looking after them, after me–after all of us who feel the pain of Edd’s passing so very deeply.

As I’ve explained previously, Edd made me into a musician. I always liked to perform–at least, I used to. I was always on the fringes of it, never taking it seriously enough to pursue it with gusto and sometimes lamenting that. But now at 50, I don’t find regret in my choices. There’s a bit of performance in every teacher and I’ve had unique, wonderful and magical experiences as a teacher and a journalist. I’ve been able to speak to large audiences, travel the west coast for stories, play small parts in little plays and write–and write. I like to think Edd was proud of me for writing. We talked about it a lot and he was interested.

But it was an e-mail from Michael Arndt, seemingly from nowhere, that changed the tenor of it all. Michael is the founder and creative director of the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company and we’ve been acquainted, been friends, for as long as Edd and I have. Michael is a professor at Cal Lutheran University and was when I was a student there. I learned Shakespeare, grudgingly, from Michael’s passion. I was an English major, tightly wound up in analysis and historical reference. Michael taught me to love the performance.

In 2006, I was teaching Othello to my high school students and Michael had come out to talk to them about the Bard. It was later on that he asked me to play the small part of the Duke of Venice in the Kingsmen production and when I did, I learned more in the six weeks I spent on that show than ever I learned at the feet of English professors and notes. I teach Shakespeare differently in my own Shakespeare class as a result. I teach the written word as performance and the character as key to understanding.

This time, 10 years later, he was mounting a production of Henry V, a play I also teach and know well. He needed someone to play the King’s old friend, Bardolph, and running out of options, he asked me. I was both frightened and thrilled. More than anything, I was sad and defeated and I needed Michael’s guiding hand more than he needed me. So, for the past 6 weeks, I have once again lived the life of an actor, mounting a production and learning new things, creating new worlds and foraging for ideas while collaborating with wonderful, talented people.

But more than anything, what Michael did was allowed me to distract myself in my grief. I still go to bed every night and wake up every morning thinking of Edd.

Last night was the final performance and, like so many great enterprises, great collaborations–it changed me. It gave me purpose when I was seeking it and it distracted me to with creativity, love, purpose and soul. Henry V allowed me to gather again with old friends and make many new ones, too.

But more than anything, what the cast and crew of Henry V taught me was that creativity is at the heart of the world. Edd knew this-it was his passion AND his dream AND his life AND his living AND it’s what he did, as Michael Faulkner said in the person of Captain Fluellen in the play.

And it goes on. My eloquence is waning–but my heart is full today. ┬áNow-and recent months, have brought grief to the doorstep of so many, but now I know and I can assure you–there is love, creativity and life in this world. If you need reminding, allow me to introduce you to the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company.

“Pick up the weapon, marry it give it your name. Define yourself by it….Or, you can love.”–Steve Hogarth, Marillion.