A few weeks ago, this letter came in the mail;
September 4, 1997
Dear Ms. Baker:
..................I was a friend of Erics' at Ferrum College. I was just informed of his death today when I called the Alumni office. I was calling to retrieve his where-abouts so that I may talk to him. I am very sorry and wanted to extend my condolences, even though you do not know who I am.
..................I wanted to let you know that Eric was a very intelligent person who was well respected among his peers. I was in many Philosophy classes with Eric and worked with him on the Iron Blade newspaper. I knew Eric for his inquisitive nature, his love for knowledge and music, and his inherent interest in literature. Eric was a person, whom, before I got to know him appeared to be an unsettled person. After becoming more acquainted with him I realized that Eric was a very whole and distinguished person beyond his own acknowledgement. Eric was elusive to me (and to himself at times) but that characteristic made him settled in all ways. Eric encompassed the many facets of life that only a few people get a chance to experience.
..................He had a great sense of humor which he would exhibit at just the right time. I remember chats that we would have with Dr. Angel, Professor of Philosophy, and chats that we would have about Dr. Downey, Associate Professor of Philosophy. Eric and I would have frequent discussions with Dr Angel regarding assigned readings. The glow on Dr. Angels' face always illustrated his happiness with Erics' interpretation. Eric and I would always share laughter at the expense of Dr. Downey. We were not disrespectful, but enjoyed his teaching style so much that we poked fun at his relaxed approach. Eric was a delight and I was honored to be one of his friends.
..................Eric treated life as a stage. He was that person that always knew his line and knew it well. He was a god person. I remember talking to Eric one Fall day outside of Britt Hall. I had asked him what he wanted to do after Ferrum? He told me that he wanted to attend film school- possibly in Chicago. I had no doubt in my mind that he would attain his dream and succeed. The only thing that I did not foresee was the fact that he was already more qualified to be a director - not just a mere actor.
With Sincere Regrets,
Noel Patrick Burke
After receiving this letter, I contacted Noels' home. His roommate answered the phone and assured me he would give him the message that I would like to talk with him, and also let him know for me, that this Memorial was here on the Internet which he might want to visit. After I did not hear from him for a while. I sent him a copy of Erics' Obituary and the following letter......
September 26, 1997
Your wonderful letter was one of the nicest extensions of comfort that I received in the wake of Erics' passing. I've made several calls to your home in attempt to contact you and tell you that personally, but it must be hard to catch up with you there.
I just want you to know that your tribute to Eric was the greatest gift that I can think of for a friend to give to another friend .... or to that friends' grieving, hurting mother. I cherish it beyond measure.
I left my e-mail and homepage URL with your room-mate. If you have not yet visited the memorial to Eric, I hope that you will - for I am putting up his poetry and other writings... pictures, etc. The candlelight service will eventually make it up there too - but although I have tried several times, to transcribe the sound from the video of the service - each time I try, I have become too overwhelmed as yet - to accomplish the task.
Dr. Hardts' eulogy is there already, for he sent me a printed copy of it in the mail afterward.
Noel, I have given many of Erics' personal things to friends. Particularly his beloved t-shirts. Is there anything or any shirt that you can think of, that I might give to you in his memory? (Music and concert-collectibles shirts mostly)
It is not really far to come here. Would you consider coming to visit and pick out a shirt, visit Freesoul Rock or just have few days with us in the country? Just let me know. Perhaps, if you don't have a weekend, just a Sunday afternoon or something? I think we would all be comforted in it.Speaking for myself, I KNOW I would be. It is a sincere and heartfelt invitation.... not just a gesture!
Would it be okay with you if I share your tribute on Erics' pages? I would very much like to do that, but felt that I wanted to be sure that you wouldn't mind?
then today, this letter arrived,
October 2, 1997
Dear Ms. Baker
..............I received your letter just the other day and wanted to thank you. I appreciate the the sentiments expressed in the obituary. I cannot know how difficult this must be for you.
..............What does one say? What does one do? Is it safer to remain at a distance? Am I being selfish? These are questions that I have grappled with after hearing of your correspondence. My room-mate did give me the message but I did not know how to receive it. I mean, I did not understand why one would make a Web page.
..............After talking to my mother I was able to examine some of my confused feelings. I told my mother that I did not agree with your creating an advertisement of Erics' passing. My mother asked me the one question that I did not have an answer to, despite my efforts to convince myself that I did. She asked, "How can you judge someone elses' way of grieving?" I did not know and I still do not know.
.............The one thing that I do know is that I would like to do whatever I can to help. I have no problem with you sharing anything that I give you on Erics' pages. The poem enclosed applies to the overall origin of grieving. I hope that you enjoy it. Thank you for the invitation to your home. I would like to come down and visit you sometime soon. I will sort my schedule and contact you in the near future.
writing is a means of security
looked up to You for such a long time now
If only I
could look out of the scopes of Your eyes
Thank You for listening
Because Noel so
graciously and caringly agreed to being public with our experience, and.......
Since a great part of what I am doing has led to helping others to deal with
grief, both their own and others', I thought I would include Noels' response and
mine as an offering and example of how myriad and difficult the circumstances
following such great loss can be - and possibly help others see, understand and
deal with the different viewpoints..... The most precious part of this exchange,
is Noels' willingness to expose and deal with his feelings and mine.
It is a very, very courageous and loving thing to do.....
Thank you Noel....
October 4, 1997
Oftentimes, in fact - I'm afraid it would be more accurate to say - "Most-times", people get caught up in a loved ones' death to the point that their life itself is obscured and sometimes too painful to even remember. What a waste. A tragic waste. In this way, I believe there is a victory in death instead of the wonder and contribution each life brings (and leaves behind in its' transcendence) in being a part of all things as it is intended that it should be.
It is not Erics' death that I am honoring, Noel, .... it is his LIFE. The concept was born of my discovery of his biographical English paper written during his first year at Ferrum, an assignment given to him by Katherine Grimes. From that paper , came some of the words I use on the first page of Erics' On-Line Memorial and Celebration of all that he was, all that he gave and all that he is still giving to the world.
I do not think that it would have taken that paper to have me be sure that Erics' work was published.... for he wanted to be read and wanted his thoughts to be memorialized and to live on as any author and great thinker desires.
Interestingly, (perhaps prophetically)... it was Eric who stimulated, encouraged and even taught me to use the internet and to chat there as he did himself.
The pages are filled with Erics' legacy which touches lives every day. It helps others to take their own dead loved ones out of the dark closets of pain and let them become a part of their lives again and this is as it should be. For what is life - if it ends at the grave? How would anyone or anything have ever progressed ? Do you suppose that the departed loved ones or even God Himself intended or desires such? I think not. But sad to say, all too often, that is what happens. It may even be a form of anger at the person for leaving - period. There is much study, conjecture and personal opinion surrounding the mystery of death - but Noel, the true mystery is LIFE.... and each of us contributes to the uncovering of it.... If you believe in God and the hereafter of everlasting life - then you must also realize that Eric has gained (earned!), an early dismissal/graduation from this beginning of that achievement of our journeys' destination.
"Eric Of The Misty Blue Mountains" has much to offer and achieves much! Eric would have been so very thrilled at the praise and admiration of his work..... He feared that it would never even reach the world. As most artists - his great depth and sensitivity, which makes life so acutely painful for such a person to exist in this world....... made ~rejection~ a thing to be feared and avoided. This is also why so many ~greats~ are ~discovered~ after they die... for during their lifetime, they cannot endure the potential consequences of exposing/presenting themselves to the world which they spend most of their lives reaching out to in the silence and oftimes loneliness of their existence in withdrawal from it! I would like to hear from you - what you think about this.
wonderful to receive your letter! There must be some
reason that we have come into contact with each
other.... and perhaps it is a path for you to see
and understand Gods' purpose and intention of life
and death as you wrote in your prayer to Him
"If I could look out of the scopes of Your
eyes... Maybe then I could understand -" I
believe that angels who are appointed to minister
unto us here, guide and help create circumstances
which help us along our way to spiritual maturity.
When we are wounded, they help us to heal. God has
designed us and Jesus commanded us, to heal each
other too.... Your tribute to Eric was so wonderful
for me! I believe that we have been helped into
coming together for a purpose and that your
revealing your innermost pain and doubt as you did
in this last letter - and my responding to that -
are all part of whatever is being worked out right
now... in both of our lives!
I remember a poem he wrote at 16, entitled "NO ONE REMEMBERS ME". Eric never knew his own greatness. Not at all. He spent his life absorbing and admiring the greatness of others, when all the while - he was as great as they! Even you said as much in that first letter you sent. Think about that..... Is he to be mourned? Or celebrated and carried along in all that we are and do each day for the rest of our lives! It is obvious what I believe to be the answer to that, you must examine what your heart can tell you about that too.
Gee... I feel that we are certainly pretty intimate friends for having never met! *grin* I suspect that it is Eric in each of us which is bringing this about! I almost feel like you are another of my growing number of ~other sons~ which have come along into my life in the absence of my own sons' presence. It happens, I think, because of those seeds he sowed there himself when he was here with us......
Until next visit or we meet....
yours because I am His (Gods')
I also printed out the first page of Erics' section and sent that with the above letter......