On Grief

Ed Lambert teaching my older son about firearms, 2016. (Photo by the author.)

I buried one of my oldest and dearest friends this morning.

Ed Lambert was 63 years old.

Ed was a rocket scientist, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a shooter, a hunter, a conservationist, a gold-panner, a scuba diver, a genealogist, a motorcyclist, a camper, a photographer, a snowboarder, a man of strong faith and convictions, and an overly talented prankster.


He knew food and wine and Scotch, and the best and fastest ways to set most anything on fire or (better yet) blow it up.

He’s the guy who taught me what rocket scientists call a “RUD.” That’s short for “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly.”

You know, when the rocket goes BOOM! all over the place.

Ed once entered a chili cookoff with a Rocky Mountain oyster-based, super-spicy recipe he named “Great Balls of Fire.”

Ed was a founding member of our Dinner Party Group, my surrogate family. We are a small, diverse, weird collection of friends who were brought together by our mutual friend, David, and the leukemia that took his life at age 41 in 1999.

The DPG is still together after all these years, though regrettably smaller.

Prepping our Christmas/Hanukkah (“Choliday”) get-together 15 years ago, Ed’s wife Melenie handed my gift to him and told him to box it. So he did: He built a wooden box, with my gift inside, that I had to use my condo-dweller-level set of tools to disassemble.

Another year, he built a wall — to code — with my Choliday gift buried inside. By then I was a homeowner with a much better set of tools to do the demo job required to open my present.

I don’t remember what either present was. The real gift was the time, care, and imagination Ed took to wrap them.

Just like he took the time and care to help me re-learn to shoot after many years away from the range, and helped me teach my boys.

Ed was maybe the most generous man it’s been my 26-year-long pleasure to have known.


Today is doubly difficult because it’s only been seven years since we lost Melenie to cancer at just 56 years old.

Their children, Beka and Adam, are two of the finest thirty-something adults I know, and I’ve known them since they were both scrawny tweens.

Beka is now a scientist, a wife, and a mother. She’s amazing at all three.

Adam sells guns, and he knows more about guns and gun laws than a lot of people who get paid big bucks to write about either one.

Ed’s granddaughter is just seven but has known nothing but doting from her beloved Farfar. I hope and pray she’s able to carry his memory with as much care as the rest of us will.

More than an hour now after I sprinkled a handful of dirt over his coffin, my shock has yet to wear off.

In September, people would ask Ed, “Have you lost a little weight?” By October, his weight loss was undeniable and he was suffering from obvious cognitive issues. Ed had had all his scans in April and they’d been clear. Some hyper-aggressive lymphoma hooked itself into him and basically gutted him in a few short months.

Three weeks ago, he drove back to Colorado from the home he’d been renovating in Michigan. Our Dinner Party Group was getting together for a multi-person birthday celebration at my house.

It took him three long days to make an easy two-day drive. Beka had called to give me a heads-up on his condition and ask that I report back any problems to her.

The next day, Ed was in the hospital. Three weeks later, he was dead. Wednesday, I got the call from Adam that his dad was in a bad way; Thursday night his suffering was over.


The real shame of his death is that a man so generous with his time ended up with so little, in the end, of his own.

The outpouring of grief these last few days has been overmatched by the outpouring of love and respect from all of us lucky enough to have known Ed Lambert as a father, a grandfather, a brother, and a friend — sometimes more than one, all wrapped up together in some weird and oddly wonderful way that could be only Ed.

It’s the kind of display that makes one wonder: Have I been a good enough person to enough people to have earned a similar showing?

I hope so. Regardless, I’ll try to do better.

As I finish writing this column, I feel a familiar weight. It’s a small W.R. Case & Sons pocketknife. Ed started giving those away as gifts many years ago, and I now have a small collection of them. Literally every day, for more years than I can remember, one of those knives has sat in my front right pants pocket.

So when I say I’ll always carry a piece of Ed with me, I mean it.


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