A – Z Challenge…… I is for…..

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I is for invincible and immortal  two things that we humans are basically not.

I is also for insidious and invasive which cancer so often is.

Cancer; a cruel disease which took the life of a friend this past week.  Erwin passed away on June 7th – he was 38 years old.    He had Adenocarcinoma of the lung  with metastasis in the brain, bones and abdominal lining.

In 2008 Erwin was complaining of back pain and after x-rays were taken he was (mis)diagnosed with Tuberculosis and treatment began for that.   In February 2009 Erwin sought a second opinion; the new doctor did a needle biopsy and we then learnt that Erwin had lung cancer.   By September 2009 there were lesions in his brain.

I met Erwin in 2005 when he attended a presentation I was giving on “Telephone Etiquette”…  he was the first with a question at the end:  When will you be on PBS?

That was a reference to my “dulcet tones” and the beginning of our friendship.

Last year I was present at the ceremony* when he wed long time partner Ed surrounded by a small number of friends and their 2 little boys, now 8 and 5 yo.
Erwin was a very special person – even nearing the end of his own life he remained concerned for others “less fortunate” than himself .   In April he joined others from our company as we participated in Feed the Homeless for the Arlington Streets People Association:     
Erwin packed a lot into those 38 years as if he knew deep down that he was not going to have the 3 score and 10. He came from a small town in the Philippines; he traveled extensively and shared wonderful stories and experiences with so many;  he was incredibly generous.  Basically he really was just a great guy and he is gone too soon.  His funeral service was held on Saturday and at the end more than 100 white balloons with little messages from mourners were released into the sky above the hearse:   
The morning was indescribably sad but it was not without a couple of moments of lightness which I think Erwin would’ve appreciated:   I commented to a friend next to me “who comes to a funeral without tissues”  when two young ladies infront of us had to get toilet paper from the restroom to dry their tears.

And on the trip home I said to the manservant:  “If I die before you, please choose hymns that people can sing along to”.    We must’ve sounded like a flock being strangled.

You can Rest in Peace now Erwin.

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*  Their marriage was granted by  Wish Upon A Wedding,  a nonprofit organization which provides weddings to couples facing terminal illness or other serious life altering circumstances regardless of sexual orientation  – I believe Erwin & Ed’s wedding was the first for the DC chapter.

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39 responses

  1. Oh, Emjay, how sad. It does sound like Erwin lived a happy life up until the end, but it was cut too short. I feel bad for his children and his widower.

    I have to confess however that I laughed at your comment, “Who comes to a funeral without tissues?” I’ve gone to several funerals with a full packet of tissues, only to soak right through them within the hour. I’m a crier—I wish I could be more stoic at those moments, but it’s just not in me. I’ve finally learned to bring a small thick hand towel in my bag and use that: they aren’t so flimsy and they soak up a lot of tears.

    • I am not stoic either HG so I had a *huge* supply of tissues in my bag – I was soaking through them fairly quickly though and was probably down to my last couple by the end of the service. I couldn’t help almost giggling when I saw there was a trail of paper from eyes to lap – it’s a little hard to disguise toilet paper when the perforations are showing.

  2. Oh My deepest Condolences to you EmJay. I remember the photos from the Wedding and how I enjoyed them.

    It’s really just sad. And an example to us who are left to really try to pack in more….and more.

    I’m sure he treasured your friendship as much as you treasured his.

  3. Oh dear. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful life on earth… not the end, oh no indeed, not the end. 🙂

    I do indeed wish you the most heartfelt hugs I can muster across the internet. What a bright light he was…. And that was a truly beautiful way to share him. It makes me wish I knew him with you, as you did. I think that’s a sign of a life well lived.

    You did a good job, with this post. 🙂 I’m sorry for your loss. What a beautiful spirit…..

  4. I remember the post about the wedding, I remember thinking how great parasols for a gift were (I not-so-secretly am coveting one but cannot justify the cost when I could just buy a hat!).

    It only took me one funeral to learn the lesson about tissues, but I still always forget about the mascara until I am there, and then I silently praise the powers that be for waterproof mascara 🙂

    I am sorry for your friend. It doesn’t matter how much ‘warning’ you get, death always seems to be sudden in the end. My best wishes for his husband and children.

    • Thank you kalita – you are so right about the “warning” – we are never really prepared for death when it happens no matter that we saw it coming for months. Luckily I don’t wear mascara so I didn’t have that to worry about but I did imagine tears were “grooving” lines in my makeup. The parasols were really a special touch – Erwin actually chose those on a trip to Thailand and then had them shipped back to the States. I have mine on display in a hallway.

  5. What a incredible sad story. I am so sorry for you loss. Like you I am probably the one who would come up with one or other joke to lighten the mood. I think most people don’t like the idea of people doing too much grieving about them. Hell, I would want them to laugh and think of all the fun times we had instead of crying their eyes out. And! I liked the idea with balloons.

    • The idea of the little farewell notes with the balloons was really nice and they looked lovely all flying upwards. I don’t want people being too sad at my funeral – I’m more likely to have a sort of wake/memorial than a church service.

  6. They looked incredibly happy together and what a fabulous organization–I’ve never heard of it before.

    Best wishes to your friend–whatever his beliefs were–and to his beloved.

    • Thank you MT – they were a really happy family unit. I hope the little boys remember him. I think it’s a fairly new organization and it was lovely that Ed & Erwin were the first ceremony for the DC chapter of the group.

  7. I was touched very much with your I-post.
    We bitterly came to know through the earthquake and tsunami that we were neither invincible nor immortal. Amount of damages and sad stories are left.
    That made us know each moment of our daily life is more precious than ever because we are not invincible and immortal..
    May your friend rest in peace!

  8. A sad story Emjay….I am sorry that you have lost a friend.

    I’d also like to echo Christina’s comment that your blogs are always beautiful, and, I might add, always highly professional and a pleasure to read.

    • Thank you GOF. it was such a sad story – we all wished for a different ending but it was not to be. As I said to Christina it is so much sadder and harder when the person is younger than oneself – that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

  9. Oh, Emjay. He sounds like a lovely man, and the world will be a lesser place without him. I love the photos and esp. the one with you and him laughing.
    How very sad but I like what you said about how you met, how he packed so much life into his years and the part about the hymns. (they always sound so morose, the organ squeaking and screeching in the background, and the flat tones of the songs; at my Aunt Mariam’s funeral ceremony we were all sitting there and a silence ensued and suddenly a man with bagpipes in full regalis, kilt and all burst into the church and played a riotous Amazing Grace whilst he march slowly down the aisle-I want that at mine.)
    And amongst the sadness and loss, you look very much like Kim Basinger in that photo.

    • Oh, Amazing Grace at funerals makes me cry every time – it’s beautiful but so mournful. Abide with Me makes me sad too. Often the music for hymns is in difficult keys and over ranges that are difficult for most of us to sing – and they only give that one little intro bit on the organ before we all have to start singing.

      Thank you re the photo – I’m so glad that I have this one.

      • I hope the Kim Basinger comment was not inappropriate. But I have always thought you are quite gorgeous in the way she is.

  10. lol at the hymn comment.
    and the balloons reminded me of when we did that for a friend and i noted that they seemed to form a giant sperm in the sky… which the departed would have loved.

    sorry your friend is gone but glad you have happy memories. and that he got to marry his partner.

    • Thank you leenda. It was wonderful that they were able to marry – it meant a lot to them. LOL @ sperm in the sky – I thought the exact same thing! even how much Erwin would like it.

  11. I remember you posting about the wedding and moaning because you had to wear white! As I recall, you thought it was a lovely ceremony.

    May we all live as if today may be our last! Your friend sounds very wise indeed.

  12. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of what sounds like an inspirational man. I’m not religious, but someone once told me that god claims back the brightest stars far too early :-/

    He sounds like a radiator rather than a drain.

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