[My brother’s memorial will be happening as this is published. I will read this at it — if I am able to. I have yet to be able to read much of any of it without breaking into convulsive sobbing. -FM]
I am not a Christian.
Having said that, I read the Bible an awful lot. I like the teachings of Jesus — in his calm reflections and in his fiery rhetoric. I would pick up a sword for him, because his cause was just. His cause was that of my brother Eric, who is, I think, a symbol for us all.
Please forgive me for quoting a bit of scripture from may favorite part of the Bible: The Sermon on the Mount. Even in translation, its poetry is unmistakably brilliant. But it is the content that I want to focus on. (This is from the New American Standard translation, which my seminary friends tell me is about as close to the Greek as one can find.)
He opened his mouth and began to teach them, saying,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied…”
It’s hard to know where to stop. I would like to continue on to, “You are the salt of the Earth” and then, “You are the light of the world.” And I could get very political as Jesus does later in Matthew 5 and throughout Matthew 6. But I’m not here to complain that it is the evil world that killed my brother with a thousand cuts.
Eric was the gentle. That, I always knew. But as I became reacquainted with him over the last several years, I saw that he was also poor of spirit, mournful, and starving and thirsting for righteousness.
Bonding With My Brother
We bonded over film, comic books, even sports. These were the few areas where he would still let me in. And it was with much pleasure that over the years — it was a slow process — that he allowed me more inside his inner world, which was rich.
We made a curious pair. Eric was extremely smart — as smart as I am but without the ostentatiousness, which is my shield as much as reserve was his.
This caused some annoyance on my part, although I look back on it now and see it as charming. We would go and see a movie together. And afterward, as we waited for the bus, I would ask, “So what did you think of that?” And his response was, “Good.” I would push it, “What did you think of the part where Iron Man has to fix a turbine and Captain American has to pull the red lever at just the right time?” “Good.”
But his whole approach to seeing a film was different than mine. When we sat down in the theater, I saw a film. Eric entered another universe. He became lost in the film — to the point where I often had to jab him to get him to stop talking to the characters. He was especially prone to scoffing at the hubris of evil characters. You know the kind of scene in a James Bond film where the villain explains his evil plan for world domination. Eric would mutter, “Yeah, right!”
Meanwhile, I was focused on the jump cuts, bad bits of dialog, poorly rendered CG, and theme — oh, how critical I am on that score. I was offended for all of Christendom by the film Man of Steel.
Eric’s Special World
But I envied Eric. He not only got lost in the films, he was also aware of all the technical aspects of the films. He was just far more forgiving. I know this because over the years, he had more to say. If he’d been given another five years, he might have turned into as big a blabbermouth as I am.
Indeed, our last conversation was the liveliest that we had ever had — just a few hours before he died. It was about how Jack Kirby was the true brilliance behind Marvel Comics and how Stan Lee was an evil hack. Okay, that’s my side of things. Eric was sympathetic to both men. But he was generally a nicer guy than I am.
I know that the gentle are blessed in a metaphorical sense. And I hope that they are blessed in a concrete sense. Eric deserves that.