Earlier tonight I received the belated news that I’d lost a friend – too soon, too young (how many times have I said that in the past year and a half).
Eric Joseph Tierney
May 18, 1979 – January 23, 2006
Eric loved irony, so the title of this entry is a line that Eric said in a play he opened, performed four times, and wasn’t able to close because of sudden liver failure, Love! Valour! Compassion!. His dear friend and the play’s director said:
…I believe he [Eric] loved us enough to hold on until the show closed…so we could hold on…before he slipped away.
There is peace in knowing that the last thing Eric did was something he loved. There is peace in knowing that someone as full of life as Eric is out there, somewhere, armed with wit and heart.
Oh, how I wish I were not so out of touch with everyone and everything; I could have seen him one last time. Ah – something else I’ve said too many times in the last year and a half, “I could have seen him/her one last time.” Ironically, I did see him one last time – I can’t remember how long ago (I know it was at a calmer time in MY life, so it must could have been at least three years) – and I was delighted to see him and he was pleased to see me; we caught up a little, and I put his number in my mobile – yet another phone number I will not be able to erase right now. But you rarely have the privilege of KNOWING that it is the last time you’ll see a person; just as you seldom know when it is the last conversation, the last phone call – or, in regards to another sort of bereavement – the last kiss, the last vacation, the last time you’ll spoon together in a bed that belongs to both of you. I suppose I am learning a great deal about loss at this point in life. I only wish it had NOTHING to do with unalterable death. Too young, too soon…
You see, Eric was and always will be “Little Eric” to me. I first me him when we were both in a production of A Little Night Music at the Babcock Theatre at the University of Utah. I had already graduated with my vocal performance degree (on the ten or eleven year plan – with a myriad of unofficial minors, including theatre and anthropology). Eric was a freshman – a BABY of eighteen or nineteen. When we realized that I was almost EXACTLY ten years his senior (I was born in early 1970, he was born in mid-1979), it only strengthened my initial feeling – he was Little Eric. But Little Eric always had a surprise up his sleeve. He had a rich baritone voice – and he was still essentially a TEENAGER. Furthermore, he was well-read, could discuss at heated length – very articulately – which requiems he admired and which were garbage (if I remember correctly, though we disagreed on some counts, he had the excellent taste to esteem the Fauré Requiem) – his knowledge of music in general was extensive and impressive (and I was the snot with the B.Mus. – assuming in the first place that just couldn’t be the case with a Freshman in the Actor’s Training Program). And then I found out he was from Butte, Montana. It is true, as his obituary says, that “he would tell anyone who would listen all about his hometown.” And he was an exceptionally good sport about the ENDLESS amount of amusement I derived from discussing (okay, sometimes mocking) Butte. Years earlier, I had been, I believe, one of the few people who actually STAYED OVERNIGHT in Butte. At that time they was a big fundraising effort to light the ninety-foot statue, Our Lady of the Rockies, that stands on the Continental divide “overlooking Butte, Montana at the Interstate Hub of I-90/I-15.” He was pleased to convey to me that the dream of lighting up “Our Lady” had been realized so that now it is visible at night. And I don’t think the comedy inherent in the fact that a ninety-foot statue of the Virgin Mary looms over a wee mining town was at all lost on him. I doubt ANY comedy was lost on Eric.
I will never forget that, one night, during the run of A Little Night Music, Eric showed up at Village Inn where a few of us were grabbing a bite (the evening’s party having been shut down by the police just as we arrived). He was several (maybe even five or six) sheets to the wind, and was lavishing affectionate kisses and hugs on all friends he chanced to encounter. “I LOVE you, Kate!” “I LOVE you, Dan!” And on and on. “I just LOVE you guys!” he said, looking absolutely thrilled with each individual. Then he said, with a somewhat vain attempt at a more serious tone, “I KNOW you think I am saying these things just because I am drunk. But it’s BECAUSE I am drunk that I feel more free to share them.” I believe that’s true. In my opinion, he was never the sort of person – and here I’ll add “pardon my French,” because I think he’d really like that – “blow sunshine up your ass.” No matter his blood alcohol level, I think his expressions of love and friendship were genuine and sincere.
An hour or so after I heard about Eric’s sudden death, I just HAD to find pictures from A Little Night Music. This was no small feat (as those who know me and my current situation can confirm) as my belongings are scattered from here to France (that, too, is for you, Eric) in boxes and piles and blown to the wind. But I found those pictures because I HAD to. Here is the very first I found:
There you are, Little Eric, holding my hand. Yes, I am the “blue one” (Mrs. Anderssen). For you, Eric, I flout a personal “rule” – one which I’ve managed to keep unbroken for going on four years (I swore I’d never include a photo of me on this blog taken during, say, the last couple of decades in which you could clearly see my face and/or body). Someone wise recently told me that I should break some of my own rules, especially those that must MIGHT be arbitary in order to see how I really feel about them. He said it could be very freeing. He was right. Granted, I might still prefer a picture SANS my image, but it captures a moment I never want to forget, and I WAS there. We’re posed in our approximate ending positions for the song Remember. Ironically, I DON’T “remember” exactly which of the song’s lyrics were ours, though I know for certain that we had a tête – à – tête in that number (the distribution of lyrics was confusing with added Liebeslieders). I DO remember dancing with you. You waltzed beautifully (and as a mere infant TEENAGER). You were so poised and graceful, despite the fact that (perhaps because of the Babcock’s lights or because of the show’s costumes) you were sweating profusely.
Thank you for that memory and A Little Night Music. I have always adored that show, and from now on I will not think of it without thinking of you. Thank you for our EVERY encounter, no matter how brief. I am deeply honoured to have known you.
And I am certainly in good company. I hope you’d be gratified by how much material about you a simple internet search produced. Here is just a sampling:
Later today, February 10, 2006, there will be a memorial service for Eric at 4:00 p.m. at the Jeanne Wagner Theatre at the Rose Wagner
Performing Arts Center (138 West 300 South, Salt Lake City).