Rest in Peace, E. F. Beall (updated)
(I’d been roughing out this post by way of a eulogy, knowing that I had some time until the obituary mentioned further down was sent to me. Given the increasing curiosity, if not alarm, in the comments on lauraw’s current post, I’ve decided that waiting would be cruel. I know that you will accept this in its rather raw form. I can always update this if necessary.)
With a heavy heart I’m bringing you news of the death of our friend on January 21. Like a number of others here, I’d grown concerned at his long absence, and had gone exploring to see if I could find news of him. Those searches aren’t important now, but given the fact that I had a bad feeling, I emailed him in case the news was bad, and one of his relations might get into his laptop’s Inbox, see my message, and contact me.
Friday afternoon I received this message from his daughter Dana, with some of the personal bits edited out:
My name is Dana Dean. I am Ed Beall’s daughter. I am very sorry to say that I am writing to you with the sad news that my father passed away on Tuesday afternoon.
As I think you may know, Dad went into the hospital on December 16th for heart surgery, a heart valve replacement specifically. While the surgery seemed to go well, shortly thereafter Dad suffered a stroke and went into cardiac arrest. The hospital staff was able to keep him going for a time. In the first week or so he was able to stay with us and communicate a bit, but other things started to go wrong -more complications. He became something of a shadow. Finally, Tuesday he slipped away, peacefully and without pain.
(Edited)… he left me a single page of nine instructions for “what to do if I don’t make it.” Contacting you was one of the nine items on the list. I went on FDL yesterday and noticed that some folks were commenting on his absence. I would be happy to contact people individually, but I don’t have anyone’s address. Dad had intended to leave me LauraL’s address, but the message I sent got kicked back to me as undeliverable. The address I have for her is (edited). If you have it and can send it to me, I will write to her. If you do have the email addresses of anyone else that I should contact and could send them to me that would be great. If you feel like sharing the news yourself that would be okay with me too. (Also, I noticed people talking about contacting Dad through his website or his email. We don’t have access to either of those things yet, so it will be some time before a response comes through that avenue.)
I am working on an obituary to send to you for FDL and one for Dad’s website. It may be a week or so before they are done. Anyone who would like to can contact me here at (edited for now) or at the phone number below. My family is currently thinking we will have a memorial service for Dad here in the bay area in a month or two. I will send you the information as we solidify a plan.
Thank you for being my dad’s friend. Please contact me anytime.
Most of you will remember that E.F. lived in Washington D.C., and rued the fact that his kids and grandkids lived so far from him, meaning he could see them infrequently, so I was glad to hear that some of them may have been with him at the end of his life, and know that he was able to feel their love and caring as he faced his next journey.
Given that he used Walt Whitman as his avatar, and that Whitman saw death as more of a transition, Walt being so in touch with the natural word as to feel that he was just another of its integral parts, I went hunting for an appropriate poem of his that might suit here. Not finding the right one, I’ve settled on this one by e. e. cummings, even though Ed had told us that he wasn’t a believer. To me, it has a similar organic, ‘it’s all stardust’ flavor:
when god lets my body be
from each brave eye shall sprout a tree
fruit dangles therefrom
the purpled world will dance upon
between my lips which did sing
a rose shall beget the spring
that maidens whom passions wastes
will lay between their little breasts
my strong fingers beneath the snow
into strenuous birds shall go
my love walking in the grass
their wings will touch with their face
and all the while shall my heart be
with the bulge and nuzzle of the sea
Some of us knew because E.F. had told us, that rather than pursuing other projects in the fields that he loved, he’d decided not long ago to join FDL and devote the next part of his life to blogging, in hopes that he could do his part in making the world a better place. Toward that end, he was both passionate and diligent, and brought his keen intelligence to his chosen tasks. You can find his entire body of work at My.firedoglake here.
His three main passions seemed to be NSA spying issues, his loathing of the Washington football team’s name: Redsk*ns, which term he refused to even type in whole form. Yep, it was one of the several things that I’d bedeviled him about; we did get up one another’s noses from time to time, but had eventually come to a point of mutual respect and solidarity on many issues.
His other passion, of course, was his series concerning the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the various fishy bits that the FBI and other acronym security agencies were claiming as ‘truths’ in the matter. He’d drawn in quite a number of new folks to his thread, including Lauraw, who’d then written a few posts of her own on the evolving subject.
We hadn’t known a lighter side of the man for some time, but eventually he did respond to some light-hearted banter, and especially loved my post on ‘The Wee Wren, King of Birds’ based on Karine Polwart’s inspirational hymn to the Occupy Movement. He’d often call me Wren wendydavis, or others Wren so-and-so, enjoying envisioning his 99% comrades as the wee wrens able to bring peace to the realm.
On that thread, he’d said in answer to one of my comments:
” Yep, since I study the old polytheists I must be a pagan. And imo my man Hesiod thought of birds as fellow poets whom he was translating. The crane, for example, speaks of the need for industriousness. (The nightingale is a meta-poet, the principle that makes poetry possible.)”
Please know, E.F. Beall, that we will all keep trying to blog and act in aid of bringing peace, justice, and true democracy to The Realm in any and all of the ways our passions, imaginations, and moral compasses take us.
I for one have no great understanding of either the mystery of death, nor strong beliefs about the afterlife, but I do hope that you’ll continue to kick ass wherever your journey takes you in this transition from earthly life to…what comes next. perhaps your long explorations as a physicist will have prompted you to imagine some of the more playful possibilities of theoretical physics, and you’ll be folding space to travel to other galaxies, perhaps even dancing to the music and wind of the stars and other galactic wonders.
I know we all send our love, prayers, and good wishes to your family, that they may feel comforted during this time of their bereavement, and feel some measure of succor that we may provide through the ether.
In one of my return emails to Deana, I’d mentioned that clearly, the music to bring to this eulogy needed to be Herbie Hancock and Dudamel’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, which you’d brought to one of my threads once. Glorious work it is, too. But this morning I feel so very inclined to send you off with the message ‘Go for the light, E.F‘, !’ So instead I’m going to embed Bruce Cockburn’s Closer to the Light, in hopes that it will speak to you, as well as to some of those you’ve left behind on this beleaguered little planet, since losing another of our own at FDL will likely ping thoughts of other deaths, impending, past, or even our own. I’ll also link to Karine Polwart’s King of Birds that you loved so well. Had embedding not been disabled, I’d have embedded it as well.
Please feel free to honor him as you’d care to.
Update: I just heard back again from Dana Dean, and she said, in part:
“Just so you know, it is not only okay for you to post my contact info, I would very much appreciate it if you did. I have begun to hear from people I do not know in Dad’s other worlds and I want to make sure that all of people who meant so much to Dad and to whom he meant so much have an opportunity to connect with the family and be kept up to date on our plans. It is a little easier for me to keep things organized if they contact me at my work email firstname.lastname@example.org, but this address, email@example.com can be used too. My work phone number is all over the internet anyway, so it is okay for people to have that too. It is (707) 747-5206.