Sunday, July 29, 2007

Poem for the Wake

A Poem for Ed Philips

by Ross Burkhardt
June 16, 2007

81 trips around the sun:
Ed's sweet journey now is done
A year ago we celebrated
With folks to whom he was related
And friends from far, and also near,
Many of whom now reappear
To pay their last respects and mourn
This gentle fellow who was born
Four score years ago plus one
For Ed's sweet journey now is done.

As summer days drift towards September
What is it that we'll remember?
Bert and Wagga, goats and sheep,
Gathering eggs, naps for sleep,
Fragile glassware, politics,
The New York Times, symphony tix,
Salmon dinners, cooking bacon,
Festivities always in the makin'
Voyages down to Mexico,
Off to Greece Ed did go,
Spain, Japan, England, Oz -
Traveling was a noble cause.

So here we are, an Irish wake -
Thank you all, for dear Ed's sake.
Now's the time to share your story
Honoring Ed in all his glory.
Step right up, tell a tale
About this most amazing male.
This is your chance, don't be shy,
Even if you make us cry.
For we deserve to have some fun
Now that Ed's sweet journey's done.

Tributes to Ed from the Memorial Service


A while back on a long road trip, we listened to a book on tape entitled Kim by Rudyard Kipling. The story was set in India, and although I don’t remember anything about the plot, the main character was always looking for people who were on the WAY rather than on the WHEEL. This was the first time I had heard of this expression & I took being “on the way” to mean a person who is authentic and not bound by the constraints of society.

I don’t know if Ed set out to be authentic intentionally, since I have seen old photos of him wearing a suit & tie, but he definitely took the road less traveled.

In death, he is confined to a little box (at least temporarily), but he certainly was not in life.

He was an accomplished professor, but he was also the most unpretentious person I’ve ever met. He showed up at any possible event in his tennis shoes & suspenders and drove his VW camper van until it was ready for a museum.

He was my father’s age, but he acted younger than I do. He stayed in youth hostels well after retirement age & was even robbed in one in London. He was an intrepid traveler known for taking red eye flights. One year, he showed up at my door at Christmas in a Santa Claus suit carrying a basket of cookies. He was ahead of the curve in all things electronic.

Ed was an accountant (an occupation where many of the people in it can be characterized as being ‘uptight’), but he was one of the most easy going people around. He delivered one of his own children unexpectedly at home. And after his 8th child was born, I asked if he thought there would be more. “It’s up to Linnea” was his response. Nothing ever seemed to bother him, except the prospect of one of his wine glasses getting broken.

But most of all we knew he was on ‘the way’ because he was nearly incapable of saying anything bad about another person - unless politics were involved.

Ed, the most unlikely accountant I’ve ever met!

May you rest in the embrace of the family you so delighted in knowing through the words and objects they left behind.

Tribute to Ed

Craig Werner

For June 16, 2007

My friend Ed Philips gives the lie to the Monty Python line that an accountant is “too boring to be of interest.” When I was on sabbatical in 1999-2000, I spent about five months living in Ed’s and Linnea’s home, and during that time and during subsequent shorter visits, I came to know and love Ed for his kindness, intelligence, wit, and good sense. Our friendship was forged through conversation—lots of it. Breakfast, almost always prepared by Chef Ed, would find us listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition,” romping through several items in The New York Times and Albuquerque Journal (always starting with the comics), discussing recent current events, or just plain sitting and enjoying each other’s company. and Scrambled or fried eggs, French toast, bacon—that crisp, flavorful bacon became an Ed trademark for me—fueled our chats so that often, I had a hard time breaking away to go to the UNM campus to do research. Evening meals were just as joyful, preceded by a full viewing of the TV news, and followed by a leisurely porch sit with the whoosh of cars going by on I-40 accompanying our musings. I miss these savory meals and the Southwest atmosphere in which they were taken, but most of all, I miss the dear man who made my times in Albuquerque some of the happiest days of my life.

I recall so many priceless moments with Ed, repeated so often that they became virtually ritualistic. Just before supper, he would intone with mock solemnity, “Dinner is served.” Accompanying the meal was a dish created by Ed, whose name he pronounced with an austerity befitting its make-up: “Ed Salad” with a grand pause between these two words. He was proud of his glass collection, augmented over the years through patient buying and selling, and for every glass of wine I drank with him, he took pleasure in serving it in a different glass, regaling me the while with a tantalizing story of how he came by it or what its chief characteristics were. Our railings against the politicians in power were relentless, pithy, and, I daresay, right on the mark. We traded college teaching stories with all the enthusiasm of new instructors trying out new ideas for the first time. We listened in awe and almost total silence to Maria Callas and other singers we both admired, giving thanks for the power of music to convey the depths of the soul. Ed’s forays into accounting taught me more about taxes, financial record-keeping, and economics than I ever thought it was possible for me to understand, let alone enjoy. Through his quiet enthusiasm, I actually began to sense some of the intriguing qualities of a discipline which had been entirely uninteresting to me before our friendship.

What I will above all treasure most about Ed is that ineffable attitude of kindness and respect with which he treated me and others with whom he came in contact. He taught me much about patience and flexibility in personal daily affairs and about the importance of keeping stress levels low. I particularly remember one night at the supper table when I suddenly realized one of the chief reasons I enjoyed Ed’s company so much. “I feel I have come,” I told Ed and Linnea, “to a home where the word “defensive” has no meaning.”

Five days before Ed passed away, we sat preparing to sip champagne in celebration of his and Linnea’s birthdays the following day. “Are you going to have some champagne, Ed?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “three drops.” After the birthday toasts, I asked Ed if he had gotten his champagne. “Five drops, actually,” he said, and I could feel the smile infusing his quip. Those few words, some of the last he ever said to me, conveyed his sense of accuracy, his sense of humor, and his sense of enjoyment at being with people. I am convinced that Ed now knows bliss greater than any of our imaginings. I join so many who celebrate, honor, and cherish the life of this kind, caring, and noble soul.

Julia's Tribute to her Father:

Julia wrote this when she attended the caregivers writing group during the week that Ed was in the hospital, and read it at the Memorial Mass on June 16.

My Dad’s eyes are still the same—a living pool of humor, kindness, and self-deprecation.
He doesn’t want to die, and he doesn’t want to be in pain, and he doesn’t want to trouble anyone. He wants to take care of himself.

I am like him. I want to solve my own problems without relying on other people.

My Dad is still full of hope. He wants to go home, and he wants to eat good food, make jokes at the dinner table, and pet the dog.

My Dad is afraid of not being able to breathe, and he is afraid of embarrassment and of pain.

My Dad has let go of some things. He doesn’t complain about people any more, except George W. Bush. He is very cooperative with the nurses and doctors. I am not like that yet. I want to correct them, refuse to do things on his behalf. But it’s not my decision.

My Dad still has his warm sweet voice. I would like to be more like my Dad. He is easy-going and a forgiving person. My Dad has had a long life, and he has done a lot of good in the world. If he knew when his life was going to end, he would carefully prepare and leave calmly. But the uncertainty, although normal, is hard to take. Any of us could get sick or hurt or could die at any moment.

Thank you, God, for all the caring, helpful, skilled, and hard-working people that are there at those times. I love my Dad, but I can only do a little bit to help him. I do believe in prayer and in working on things also.

Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Julia Philips

May 3, 2007

Ross Burkhardt recited poems and shared these comments:

Our first speaker this morning, Karen Nystrom, referred to Ed by citing a line from a Robert Frost poem. I suspect that Frost might have had someone like Ed in mind when he composed these words:

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

My name is Ross Burkhardt, and I live in Las Cruces with my wife, Jeanne. Many people have spoken of the adventures they had with Ed, and his voyages all over the world. Jeanne and I were fortunate to travel with Ed and Linnea on several occasions. We went to England and lived in a 17th century thatched cottage, where Ed cooked meat using a Raeburn stove -- the crackle was delicious. We purchased pottery in Mata Ortiz, Mexico, near the ruins of Paquime. We toured Trinity Site one cold October day, and we birded at the Bosque del Apache many times. We also enjoyed extravagent tail-gate dinners at the Santa Fe Opera.

A nineteenth century poem by Lord Byron speaks to these adventures, and to our sadness and sense of loss:

We'll Go No More A-Roving
by George Gordon Lord Byron

So, we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,

And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,

Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.