My grandfather, the person whom I really consider like my father actually, passed away today. Below is the obituary I wrote:
Edwin Lee Ellis, longtime high school educator and former dean of students at The Athenian School in Danville, California, passed away early Friday, June 15. He was 90 years old. The cause was a combination of complications from stroke, prostate cancer, and pneumonia. As a former wrestler, it took three heavyweights to pin him down. His passing was as he wished: Peacefully, naturally, in his own home, and surrounded by his friends and loved ones.
Mr. Ellis was born to Dr. Wilder P. Ellis and Jessie Ellis in 1916 in Urumia, Persia. He came to live in the United States at 15 and attended the Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York. He earned his bachelors degree from Davidson College in 1939. He taught at the Chadwick School on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California from 1939 to 1942, went back to teach at the Western Reserve Academy to coach wrestling in Hudson, Ohio from 1942 to 1949, and returned to Chadwick to be the dean of students and director of athletics there from 1949 to 1966.
In 1966, Mr. Ellis was invited by Dyke Brown to be dean of students at the newly founded Athenian School, nestled in the foothills of Mount Diablo. He and Mr. Brown built the school from the ground up, and Mr. Ellis particularly contributed to the development of Athenian���s facilities and sports programs.
In his retirement, Mr. Ellis remained very active with the alumni associations for all the schools that he taught at and attended, and was very highly regarded by the students whose lives he touched over his 68-year combined professional career and retirement. Mr. Ellis was always an example of strong moral character, loyalty, trust, dedication, and perseverance. He was a pillar in his community, and will always be remembered lovingly by his family, friends, students, and colleagues.
Many interesting coincidences occured surrounding this event.
When I got the call at about 1:30 AM that he had passed, I got in the car to go deal with the situation. It is no secret that Hindemith’s Trauermusik is one of my favorite compositions of all time, usually placed No.2 in my top 10 lists, right behind Mahler’s 2nd Symphony “Resurrection.” No, I do not have some weird obsession with death – these are simply sublime, beautiful pieces of music. And so what was on the iPod randomness, cued up for me at 0:00, when I got in the car? Keep in mind I have about 17 GB of music on my iPod, and it would take about three weeks for it all to begin to repeat if played sequentially.
OK that is really no big deal to anyone except for me. I have a special connection with that piece, so it just made for a very reflective drive in the peace and quiet of the hours before dawn, when the streets are still and every star in the sky shines bright.
What was way weirder was the circumstances regarding Psalm 23:
This was read to my grandfather shortly before his passing, by my aunt. He was a very religious man, and that was one of his favorite prayers. That same night, my wife was rehearsing with the choir she plays piano for, and they were playing a work that used this text late the night before, just a couple of hours before his death. After running through that work, the power went out and my wife was complaining that this was some depressing funeral music – just kidding around to the conductor and the pastor. But then the pastor, who is at the very least an extremely intuitive person, began to pace and became overcome with a sense of anxiety. He said to my wife that he needed to go over to visit my grandfather that night, as in immediately after rehearsal, around 10:30 PM if they rushed over right after rehearsal. They called and I of course told him to go get some sleep and come over at a more reasonable hour the next afternoon. But he was right…
Finally, something poetic that was also read to him that night, from St. Therese of Lisieux, which my aunt wants to have read at his memorial service:
May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.
I am not myself a spiritual or religious person, but I do find these words and these occurences and these coincidences to be beautiful, and poetic, and memorable.