Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teddy died today


Teddy Mapes

I see it’s Martin calling and pick up the phone. Teddy passed away, he says. WHAT? I say. He’s dead. You need to come here.
 I’ll be there right away. Nate on the couch looks up and says what happened? Not wanting to believe what I heard, hoping there’s a chance it’s wrong, I say, Something happened at the church, I need to go check it out. 

When I get there, there’s an ambulance. A firetruck. Lights flashing. Martin, Soli, Martin’s daughter Gabriella, Teddy’s roommate Christopher, other dancers all standing around.

What Martin tells me: Teddy was supposed to work with him this morning. He kept calling. No answer. Saw Christopher. Sent him upstairs. Chris came back, said he was scared. Martin went up, found no pulse. Called 911. The paramedics say they don’t now for sure, looks like a heart attack. Christopher tells me he saw Teddy at 6 AM tossing and turning in bed, asleep. He left. And when he came back and Martin sent him up.....

I say to Martin, Emotions aside, we have to deal with this. How do we start making contact?  Gabriella reaches Teddy’s son at his high school. Puts me on the line. I have to tell him his father is dead. And I need numbers for his ex-wife, his sister, wife in Texas....Soon the numbers are called back to Gabriella and I start to work making calls. 

His ex-wife is concerned mainly for his children. His sister is shocked. But will be the point person for the family. Will  call his father. Despite their differences, he loved him, you know? He’ll be devastated. 

Then I call Jamie. She’ll be here as soon as she can. Stephen. I notice Christopher has taken off. My concern turns to him. Teddy was his roommate. Connection to the world. 

And we begin our vigil. The police arrive. The EMT’s leave. I ask for permission to do last rites. I consecrate oil, get water from the Jordan and head upstairs. Martin, Soli, Gabriella and the dancers follow. Stand beside me as I step forward. Teddy looks at peace. As I knew he was. At peace with himself. I say the prayers. Anoint him. Make the sign of the cross on his forehead. As I touch him, iI keep feeling that he’s waking up. Together in Spanish and English we say the Lord’s Prayer, el padre nuestro... and leave the room.

Jamie arrives. Asks if i’ve done last rites. Tell her I just have. She wants to go upstairs. I take her up. Asks the police if she can stay. Doesn’t want him to be alone while we wait for the coroner. Can she have a chair? You can’t touch anything, move anything, this a police site now. After an hour, they’ll relent, get her chair as she keeps Teddy company.

I’m glad I’ve got Stephen. I’d forgotten that Comedy Central was coming to finish arrangements for using our building  as a holding space tomorrow. I send them with Stephen.

I see RL in Mc Alpin. What’s up with Tedrick? 
He passed, RL, I say.
We look at each other. Sucks. 
What can I do? he asks.
I’ve done what I do. I say. Do what you do.  (He knows I’m referring to the Native American tradition.)
I will do that, he says. 

Mim has arrived with something for Kimberely before she heads home for the holidays.
I explain to her what has happened. I realize I’m still in my torn jeans and crocs and want to change. 

On my way out, Marsha has arrived. I catch her up. While we’re talking John R arrives with a supply of batteries for Sandy relief. I explain what has happened.

When I got back, I had forgotten that Bread and Puppet Theatre was coming. Jonathan B is there with several company members and Peter Schuman their founder. I tell them I’ve seen their work for decades, all the way back to my anti-Vietnam days. I tell them the social history of the church. Expecially the 1982 March Against Nuclear Proliferation. We were there, they say. They’re thinking about performing here. Possible logistical problems. It’s my experience that if something’s right, we can work out the logistics. I say. They like that. Jonathan knows what’s going on, understands as I leave.

Marsha is wrapping up negotiations with Comedy Central. Only needs my signature. I sign. Stephen and Danielle and Jamie have gone across the street to the Bean to talk about Christopher. I tell them I need to look in on RL. Find him at the Gate. Mandola Joe and Pat O share their condolences. RL orders me a shot of Jameson’s and a Guiness. To Teddy....

The Medical Examiner is upstairs. I had been expecting to lead an Advent Lectio Divina. Never had time to let people know what had happened. Inivte people to sit in a circle. Martin’s family and dancers join us. They’ve brought a candle with  el santo nino on it. 

I explain that a funeral, a memorial service will come later.  This is a service of commending, prayers for the journey of the spirit. As I look up, Anna and puppy join us as well. I lead our prayers in English and Spanish. Finish again with the Lord’s Prayer, padre nuestro. And we light the vela de memoria. Hugo has arrived now as well. I am happy he is there. His being there is a comfort. Now who will I deliver my chicken to? he asks with a gentle smile.

Just as we have finished, the coroner has finished his work and the ambulance has arrived to take Teddy’s body away. We go outside, stand in two rows as he is taken out. I say a final prayer, people crossing themselves. The ambulance takes off. A police officer wants me to sign a release so they won’t have to seal the building. 

We have held our vigil from beginning to end. We all depart. Teddy’s candle will continue to burn. His spirit will remain long after. I need time to let myself feel. 

                               * * * * 

Comments: I have included everything about the day as I experienced it, even what seems mundane or extraneous because that is how death the midst of living...even as we experience a time out of time, life goes on around us.

There are a lot of theological reasons why Protestants stopped doing certain practices.  But that leaves a big hole. We need rituals, acts, for spiritual and emotional and cultural reasons. (Which I imagine assumes a theology of its own.) The first time I was asked to do last rites, I responded that was actually Catholic, not Protestant. To which the response was It’s not about that, we’re Latinos. So I went to my friend Father John who told me just to do it. And taught me how. So now I do. Goes deeper than doctrine. We do what we need to do.

The fact is I will miss Teddy more than I can even say.

At the May Day rally


  1. I join you in giving thanks for Teddy's life and love and faith and commitment to West-Park and to the people.

    My heart aches as you grieve your loss.

  2. Please let me know about the service

    John Hudson

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  5. I just want him to come back.

  6. "I love you forever, and forever, love you with all my heart. Love you whenever, we're together, love you when we're apart.
    And when at last I find you, your song will fill the air, sing it loud so I can hear you..."
    --- I Will