Monday, November 23, 2009

Photo of the Day - In Loving Memory:


This Monday was certainly a challenge. When I sat down tonight I didn't want to write. I wanted to make a short post saying today was too difficult, I didn't have time and I would be back tomorrow. Then I thought for a second and realized that everything Eric taught me over these past 9 months was exactly why I shouldn't pack it in and feel sorry for myself and post.

Today I lost a friend to ALS or better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was 48. If you would have asked me what ALS was 9 months ago when I learned he had been diagnosed I couldn't have told you the first thing about the disease. Embarrassingly enough when I initially found out he was ill, being the optimist that I was, I wasn't 100% that it was even terminal. I had a lot to learn.

After finding out what it is and how quickly and indiscriminately the disease attacks your body I was terrified about what was to become of my friend. To my amazement Eric didn't feel the same way. When he announced his diagnosis to all of our friends it was literally the week before I took the bar exam. I still found time to take a break and send him a short message of support and he didn't miss a beat in responding telling me to keep my focus and that I was going to pass the test and that I was already "practically a lawyer."

Eric was always a hero to me. I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with him and his son in December of 2005. Eric's son is autistic and it was literally awe inspiring to watch the two interact. The love they shared was like no other and they fished together any spare moment they had. They didn't communicate verbally to one another, but they didn't need to, their bond was just that strong. It was truly amazing.

He was a man of the island and had lived there all of his life. Our first stop - the home, workshop, and gallery of the one and only Bob Rauschenberg. Eric knew him as well as the gallery manager and he often fished off of his dock. Walking through this amazing artist's work area and gallery while looking at pieces that have yet to be seen by the world and others that were very famous works was my first experience with Eric and something I would never forget.

Our next stop on this adventure of a day was to a neighboring dock to do some cast net fishing. Eric was a champion cast net fisherman (seriously!) so he definitely had to show off his skills. Throwing a cast net well is truly an art form and Eric was a master. Within no time he had fish in the bucket and was throwing for more. Unfortunately his net became caught on a piling. Before I knew what was going on he was in a neighbor's kayak paddling out to retrieve it just in time for the owner of said kayak to run outside with his 2 Rottweilers and yell "Hey! He's stealing my boat!" I've never seen a human stand up in a kayak so fast in my life. Eric continued on his way however while explaining what he was doing to the more than angry kayak owner. He freed the net, returned the boat and we lived to cast another day. We laughed about this adventure often. The afternoon ended far too soon.

We managed to get together with a bunch of friends one last time in Gainesville for the Orange and Blue spring football game this April. Eric was his normal jovial self with plenty of laughs shared all around. We didn't talk about ALS much that day but more importantly (at least to him) what was going to happen with the Gators this coming season. His walk was a bit slowed and his speech slightly slurred but that didn't slow down his spirits at all. He walked all day and we ended up heading to Copper Monkey for dinner where we shared even more stories and laughs. When it was time to say goodbye I hoped that it wouldn't be the last time we said goodbye face to face but I think we both knew it would be. Again, the day ended too soon.

Over the next seven weeks is where I learned the most about what an amazing person Eric was and that he was a true hero. He updated us as often as he could and as often as his body would let him but he always had his family and friends as his number one priority. He often talked of tough days and tough thoughts but he was never negative about what was going on in his life. His outlook on life continued to be nothing but positive and upbeat and even when he was facing adversity and barely able to walk or talk, he was still smiling and encouraging others. It really put things into perspective for me when I would wake up and have a rough start to the morning and get down on myself and others for something petty only to read an update on Eric and how he may have been struggling physically but emotionally and spiritually he was at the top of his game. He is truly a hero and an inspiration.

I chose the above photo for numerous reasons today. First off Eric was a master fisherman and this is one of the few shots I have and I am willing to post of a fisherman. Secondly it is from my favorite spot in the world to shoot, especially when I am down, County Dock in Mandarin. This spot was where I went when all in my world was lost. The sunsets and natural beauty would quickly snap me out of my funk and remind me that things would be alright and that as much as i hated to admit, I wasn't the one in control. Today, learning the bad news, I wanted to go to this spot and just sit and take in the beauty again. Unfortunately I was 3 hours away so all I could do was focus on my memories and my photos. Eric was such a fan and encouraged my work. I think he kind of felt responsible for some of my creative side by showing me Rauschenberg's work and studio. He would always have a positive word and thought on my work even if I wasn't feeling the same. I'm not sure Eric ever saw a photo of mine he didn't like, but even if he did, there's no way he would tell anyone else in the world. Just one of the many things I will miss about my friend. His kindness, upbeat attitude, and encouragement will forever live within every photo I take.

He passed peacefully and with dignity early this morning but he leaves behind his inspirational story and attitude that he exuded in the most dire of circumstances. He is truly one of my heroes and will be unbelievably missed. Thank you for all that you taught me Eric. You left us too soon. Rest in peace my dear friend, your body is yours again.


Velvet said...

God, Tim. I am really sorry for your loss. Hang onto the good memories.

Diane said...

Tim, thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to someone who clearly meant so much to you. While he was obviously a great friend to you, your words leave no doubt that you were the same for him. God bless.

RowdyReptile said...

Very well written, Tim. I miss Eric already.