My uncle Edward was technically my great uncle. He was my grandmother’s brother.
The man was by all accounts an artist. He was a man driven by passion but he also possessed a lethal intellect. He was a man who would tear up in his apartment listening to Beethoven. He was a man who wrote a poem about heaven on earth.
When I was younger, probably nineteen, I sat across from him at a family gathering at my aunt and uncles’ and we conversed about music.
He told me about how he learned Clair de Lune in order to win the attention of someone he loved. We spoke about the depths that music reaches. His words burst with color. I listened with a mind like an open canvas.
Last year he passed away and I was blessed by his immediate family with many of his things. The complete works of Shakespeare. Music. Paintings. Statues of David and a Chimp holding a human skull in the “Thinker’s” pose with “Darwin” written on its side.
He was in a very true sense, a reflection of the man that I know myself to be. And that is why I think I found my learning about his genuine struggles from conversations with my grandma so fruitful.
The downfall of the artist resides in their passions.
Edward loved more deeply than words can convey. His love reached the bottom of the ocean, it broke into the darkest places the mind can touch. He loved like a man who had seen the face of God loves.
But because of this vision, his passions blinded him of the nature of reality. His passions blinded him about how others might feel about certain things. His passions, armed with his intellect, were a battalion of truth seekers ready to slaughter any contradictions regardless of their validity.
That call for perfection, that drive to reach the mountain’s top – the eye seeking beauty and inspiration – it is a burden to a man who has to face disillusionment, isolation, and heartache.
Edward’s funeral cards were dated 2010. He had prepared them years before. His love had died and he had been told by the doctor that his pacemaker battery was going out and that he would die shortly after it did. Instead, he lived for seven more years.
I can imagine the hell of that situation. The hell of losing the one you love, the one who inspires you a sense of divine beauty – the one who reflects love itself to you in their smiling eyes. I can imagine the hell of them going away, and then being promised that you would be soon delivered and the disillusionment of suffering without them every single day for seven years despite what the doctor had promised you.
But without those extra years those behaviors in him, that battalion, it would have gone unchecked; unreconciled.
I think of him every once and awhile. When I’m stuck with a composition, or when I don’t know the right approach to take in a relationship I talk to him. I rest my mugs on his cup holders. I read the lines of the books he purchased and had found beauty in. I drive around listening to Beethoven.
My only regret is that I never had the chance to walk with him as who I am now. That I wasn’t able to convey my respect for his character to him.
I once posted a picture of a tree that I drew onto facebook and he commented, “As an art major this truly is a wonderful tree.”
Uncle Ed, as an artist, a musician, a lover of beauty and a feeler of the deeper things of this life – you really were a wonderful human being.
Here is a recording of my Uncle John reading Edward’s poem about heaven on earth at his funeral: poem.