On my June 30th birthday I shared a glorious afternoon with my son and granddaughter, exactly as I had envisioned. Late that night I learned Ed Hanson, 88 years young and one of my closest friends, had died after a fall in his home. A sudden and heartbreaking loss, the family graciously accepted my offer to officiate his service. The following is my eulogy.
We gather here today to celebrate the exceptional life of Ed Hanson and to heal the deep wounds of his passing. We gather to acknowledge the gift of joy that Ed brought into our lives and to recognize our great loss. Mason has lost his grandfather and his best friend. Rachel has lost her father. Sandra lost a husband and life partner. And the rest of us have lost a treasured friend.
Ed Hanson enriched my life in many ways. We met shortly after I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1972 and joined Oklahoma Publishing Company as an advertising representative. Ed was an enigmatic figure among the sales force. After our first round of golf at Trosper Golf Course, the stoic Eddie asked what I was reading. “The Way of Zen by Alan Watts,” I said. He shifted in his chair and we began a wonder-filled conversation that lasted fifty years.
Early in our friendship we were playing chess in Eddie’s garage. Against a wall were racks of books and a small writing table with a tall stack of papers perched to the right. “What are you writing?” I asked. Eddie made his move and hit the timer. “When inspired I write until the page is full then place it face down on the stack,” he said. “That’s it?” I asked. “What more is there?” he said. “It’s your move.” Classic Eddie, always in the moment. Rachel shared that when she and her mother would return home from a trip Ed would have often written a poem. They would sit on the floor while he played his guitar and sang for them. I had not read any of Ed’s writing until Rachel shared this poem.
Tales of Love
I saw you sleep – long before the
cock would crow
Tell me, was I in your dreams
When your face was all aglow?
There without a whisper
You held me in your eyes
And told me tales of love
While the moon passed us by
I said I’ll bring your wildflowers
To wear in your hair
I’ll pick them in the valley
While the moonlight is there
Then you said
Fly through the air
In search of those flowers
I’ll wear in my hair.
Glide through the air
In search of the flowers
My love is wearing in her hair
I picked them in the valley
When the moonlight was there
I did so gently
I hope you don’t care
Now from the ragged meadows of my soul
I keep searching high and low
in places the wildflowers
used to grow
But only a fool looks back
Don’t you know.
A kindred spirit, Eddie inspired me in many ways. He shared the story of his years in San Francisco, his love of books and writing. We often discussed the meaning of life, which Eddie demonstrated in countless ways: through his love and devotion to his family, his integrity and intellect, his joyful lust for life and delightful humor. Over the last ten years it has been a great honor for me to share time with Eddie and Mason, to witness their love and friendship. And, of course, to have some adventures.
Where do we go from here? Grief is not easy. Grief is a gauntlet that drives us to our knees. Each of us will deal with Eddie’s passing in our own way. It is best for us to count our blessings, the knowing of all the joy and laughter Eddie brought to our lives. As Eddie stated in his poem, his song Tales of Love, it is foolish to look back. But we are all fools for love, for a moment of truth that lasts longer than a moment, a meeting of the minds that embodies a greater understanding of what it truly means to be human. That is the legacy of Eddie Hanson: his spirit is transcendent, a torch fueled by love we will carry to light our way for the rest of our days.
Chaos is the nature of the universe. These are chaotic times, yet we search for order and understanding. We search for meaning. What I know is that God is good. God is love, an unwavering creative presence in everything we experience in this world – and the next. Be kind. Forgive yourself for the things you said or did not say, the moments when you reached out and fell short of your desires. Eddie gave us joy and devotion. He inspired us to go beyond what is reasonable or expedient. Let his spirit enlighten us and comfort us in knowing all the love and goodness we have shared.
My father died when I was ten years old. Shortly before his passing he wrote a poem, Change of Climate, which I once shared with Eddie. The last stanza reads:
Dry those tears that fall in vain
You can forgive and forget thy source of pain
Glorify Him who has the power to cheer
The storm will pass and the weather will clear.
God bless you all.