The third shoe drops

by Chris Walden

They say that some events, like meaningful deaths in one’s life, happen in threes. This has been one of those months. Three voices who greatly affected me in my life have been silenced.

Photo of Ed Solomon in his later yearsThe first was my dear friend, Ed Solomon. He was the last one I encountered, and the first to leave, January 4th. Ed was a music teacher, father, grandfather, storyteller, entertainer, and so many, many other things. I met him over the phone, connected by our mutual interests in magic, theatre and stories. We talked on the phone and corresponded for years. During the last couple of months before he suffered the final, debilitating stroke that ultimately took him from us, I spent several days with him, sharing things about technology, life, art and everything. Ed’s memorial service was last Sunday. There I met many other people who had been affected by having Ed in their lives. They were from all walks of life and all of them expressed admiration of what he accomplished and how he had gently and profoundly transformed them. I wish I had met Mr. Solomon earlier. I could have used him during some of my early years of fumbling. I’m very fortunate, however, that I did meet him, and through him all the others who are now a part of my life.

Leonard Nimoy at the 2011 Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo by Gage Skidmore

On February 27, we lost Leonard Nimoy. I first discovered Nimoy portraying Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series, which I watched eagerly in syndication as a kid. Spock was in tune with his emotions. He still had them, but he governed them, using logic and his intellect. As a young, curious person who didn’t necessarily fit the norms (even in the 1970s) Nimoy’s textured performance of this character resonated with me. If Spock could survive the slings and arrows of Doctor McCoy, surely I could get through what was being thrown at me. Of course, by this time, Nimoy had left Star Trek and was now the host of In Search Of, the weekly program about the strange, the odd and the unusual. I reveled in discovering the world of UFOs, ghosts, psychic phenomena and all manner of weird things that still deeply interest me. These were parts for Nimoy…acting jobs. My real introduction to Nimoy was through his art. He was a writer, a poet, a photographer and a filmmaker. His book, I Am Not Spock, gave me a look behind the scenes about how being so closely associated with a single character affected him. It was illuminating to see how Nimoy could speak so profoundly to me through his acting while suffering his own versions of frustration and insecurity. Of course, later in his life he wrote another book, I Am Spock, where he had come to the other side of much of this and acknowledged how much of his life and success was predicated from his relationship with his Vulcan side. Nimoy was 83, the same age as Ed Solomon, when he passed. This may not be a coincidence.

Photo of Terry Pratchett on Day 2 of the 2012 New York Comic Con
Photo by Luigi Novi

Finally, today, the third shoe dropped. Terry Pratchett, a fantasy and science fiction writer, whose writing has becoming very entangled with my own view of the world. Pratchett’s writing was funny, even silly. It was satirical storytelling that covered everything from bureaucracy to religion, fame, magic, the apocalypse… He was an equal opportunity offender and an incredible word smith who gave me some of my favorite quotes from such memorable characters as Death, Granny Weatherwax, and many others. (Here is just a taste of his wonderful way with words.) In life, Terry was an atheist, which fascinated me, because I found some amazingly spiritual ideas in his writing… ideas that influenced my own spirituality. I’m sure he would have found that amusing, like someone who sees Jesus in a knock-knock joke, but it is a fact. He created a place in my brain where I could appreciate the humanity in many of the things that people take very seriously. Like Ed Solomon, like Leonard Nimoy, Terry Pratchett made me think. It wasn’t the sort of regurgitation that we think of as learning, but a real, open-ended approach to thought where the answer was not predetermined. Terry was suffering from an uncommon form of Alzheimer’s. It finally claimed him on March 12.

So, three voices who echo in my brain, who have actually helped shaped some of those brainwaves, are no longer here. They have moved on. In the case of Ed Solomon, I wrote a brief story (more a scene) describing what I feel waited for Ed as he left us. It flowed so quickly from my mind that I wonder if I was merely taking dictation. I hope that Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett also found something wonderful waiting for them, whether they believed in it or not.

For myself, I will miss their voices. I have a rich history to revisit, and I imagine I will do quite a bit of that, again and again. But I am especially conscious that history is all I will have. There will be no new words or ideas, just new discoveries as I find new understandings in the existing canon. The new ideas, the new words are now up to me. That is always the way. We are guided and shaped by people, but eventually it is up to us.

Ed Solomon, Leonard Nimoy, and Terry Pratchett, thank you for the positive influences you have had on my view of the universe. Your body of work will continue to influence others for who knows how long. Rest in peace.