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Upon two deaths: an appreciation

Upon two deaths: an appreciation

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Mr Pyle meditates upon the lives and deaths of two friends.
Mr Pyle meditates upon the lives and deaths of two friends.

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04/25/2014

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Upon two deaths: an appreciation
Markham Shaw PyleBapton Books
 
1
HI
week began with the news of two deaths, news I received one after the other, in discrete tidings of misery and sorrow. One of my best and oldest friends died, no older than am I now; the mother of another of my (and his) best and oldest friends died at the end of a long illness, at what it is lightly, unthinkingly, called “a good age” – as if there were ever a good time to lose someone.
T
I do in fact, as it happens, believe in “The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting,” and I do in fact, as it happens, “acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come”:
Credo in … Sanctorum Communionem, Remissionem peccatorum, Carnis Resurrectionem, Et vitam æternam; Confiteor unum Baptisma in remissionem  peccatorum, Et exspecto Resurrectionem mortuorum, Et vitam venturi sæculi:
 that is not in question. But no more in question is the wisdom of a Dean of St. Pauls, who wrote a little poetry on the side, one John Donne:No man is an
Iland
, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the
Continent
, a part of the
maine
; if a
Clod
 bee washed away by the
Sea
,
Europe
 is the lesse, as well as if a
Promontorie
 were, as well as if a
Mannor
 of thy
friends
or of
thine
 
owne
 were; any mans
death
 diminishes
me
, because I am involved in
Mankinde
; And therefore never send to know for whom the
bell
 tolls; It tolls for
thee
. I grew up insofar as I ever have grown up at St. Christophers, when the Reverend Charles Fuller Hood was rector; and Father Hood knew well what I am struggling to convey, that for the soul translated from the Church Militant here below to the ranks of the Church Triumphant and At Rest, death has no sting, for he or she who dies and joins the company of all faithful people departed, has, as he always put it, “made his (or her) Easter.” The bones sing – shall these bones live? – and Easter may come at any moment: all time being– as my publishing partner insists, in his Eliotian way – eternally present, midwinter Spring its own season, indeed, midwinter Eastertide its own season, coming upon us like a thief in the night. The faithful departed, then, are at rest. When A. P. Hill was killed in action, R. E. Lee, mourning the loss, said, “he is at rest; it is we, the living, who suffer.” My business is with the living, on this Friday, the day before a Saturday of back-to-back funerals, one a Methodist, the other a Roman Catholic, service, and me wending my Anglican
via media
between them.____________________________________
Y
 friend Wade – D. Wade Loep played the Big OlBoy, the Good OlBoy, to the hilt, and halfway up the haft of the handle. People who saw, or heard, him only in passing – and Wade had a voice that could waken sleeping hogs in the next county, when he chose would have expected him to have attended Texas  A&M rather than Centenary. Like his father before him, he was a nurseryman, with green thumbs and soil on his hands,
M
 
2
even as an executive of nursery companies. The inattentive would have presumed he went by “Bubba” or “Hoss,” and he was built for that role, with a beaming grin and hands like hams.Nor would it have surprised those who knew him but slightly or not at all, in passing, that he was hilarious when we were badgered into receiving our high school senior rings: there are a lot of people in a lot of Texas schools for whom thats likely to be their only major life accomplishment. Nor would it have surprised such persons, the casually inattentive, to have heard that he was in a car wreck on his way to a summer outdoor concert when we were … I dont recall, somewhere between the ages of 19 and 21, in our undergraduate years (his at Centenary, mine at W&L).Wade was a good deal more than the casually inattentive would ever have managed to guess.Take the incident of the rings. (I dont wear even my university signet ring.) Wade might have looked to the casually inattentive – like a Good OlBoy for whom getting through high school was the high point of his life, but he wasnt, and our high school wasnt precisely that sort of place. We were all badgered into getting the damned things, but Wade’s reaction was not what the casually inattentive would have expected. He and I were in my parents front parlor, grinning sourly at the farce, when we both had the same idea, and chanted practically in unison,
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
 As I said, there were depths in Wade unexpected by the casually inattentive.Or take that car wreck on the way to the outdoor concert in July, in the early 1980s. Wade was driving. I was a passenger. Two folks in a stolen car, both of them drunk enough to make their subsequent taking to their heels in fear of
La Migra
a futile gesture, ran a red light and T-boned Wade’s car at an intersection. On the passenger – my side, naturally.We were less than a block from the hospital. Id hit my head on the rear-view mirror and windshield (I still have the scars), and was bleeding like the proverbial stuck pig. Wade, who was uninjured, was at once frantic and reassuring, almost tender:
Youre going to be all right, the ambulance is already almost here....
I just looked up at him and said, “Im not dying, you idiot. I’m
bleeding all over my favorite shirt.
Hand me a damned towel.It was a measure of Wade’s innate grace, decency, and goodness that even that did not cause him to cease being my friend (always a tricky position, and not much sought after): thats one point. Another is his concern for an injured friend. The last point that this incident reveals, though, is this. It was July. We were on our way to an outdoor concert. We were 19 or 20, say. It was Texas. Wade
looked
like your basic Good OlBoy. Were we headed out to see, oh, ZZ Top, or George Jones, or some rock group, or – I was after all along for the ride – a jazz band, a swing band, or Asleep at the Wheel? We were not. We had been on our way to the Houston Symphony’s outdoor Fourth of July concert.I was a violinist: people werent shocked by that. (Dismissive, yes, but not shocked. It was felt to be The Sort of Thing MSP Would Do.) Wade, though, was a violist, and a damned good one, who for all his Good OlBoy appearance in the eyes of the casually inattentive – could and did argue with me about Bruch and Bark. Admittedly, there may have been

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