Homage to Homer

By Marcia Miller
Photos By Jasmine Astra-Elle Grace

My friend Homer Echard died on September 11. When I heard the news mid-afternoon my heart was already tenderized by stories of those who had lost loved ones in the collapse of the twin towers. It felt especially appropriate to feel the sadness of the loss of my friend, even as I was glad that he was no longer struggling to take a breath or sip a few drops of water.

I first met Homer in a yoga class I was teaching at Jeffrey Mansion in Bexley. I taught there for many years and we all loved the high ceilinged room with wood floors and 3 walls of floor to ceiling windows looking out over the majestic, ancient trees of Jeffrey Park. I even remember where he, and his wife Susan, would like to place their mats in the room. He was probably in his late 60s and she in her 50s when they started yoga.

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I don’t think I had ever met someone named Homer before (this was before the Simpsons). He was an attractive man with a grey ponytail and a wicked sense of humor. He certainly enjoyed being in a room full of women and always made the most of it. Even though he was extremely inflexible physically, he was game to try anything and was always patient when doing the appropriate variations for his body while the women in the room did more advanced versions of the poses. After being a beginner for awhile, he and Susan moved into my level two class. He was still stiff as a board but willing to work at his own level. I remember one night when we were practicing the splits (Hanumanasana). Every one was working on the floor with a little blanket or block for support and Homer looked at me and I looked at him and we both knew that this was not going to work for him. We did not have many props in this location so I had to think about what help him. Finally I thought of giving him two chairs to hold him up. So with one hand on the seat of each chair he simply put one foot in front and one behind and, voila, the splits. I remember him looking relaxed and very pleased with himself. And I love imagining him going back to see his male cronies and announcing that he had done the splits in yoga class that week.

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He created what turned out to be a longtime and fun tradition in class. Each week he would hand me a slip of paper with a word and its definition written on it in his impeccable handwriting. The words were interesting, surprising and sometimes funny. I would read the word to the class, see if anyone knew it (hardly ever) and give the definition. It became our pattern that I would have to figure out how to use the word in class. Frisson wasn’t so bad, but neither apotheosis nor humicubate were words that normally flowed off my tongue.

When he finally stopped coming to class I had to find other ways to see him because by then we were friends. Those of you who frequented the Drexel on a weeknight evening may recall him playing his harmonica outside with a small group of musicians. I visited them occasionally at their house in South Bexley, next door to Yoga on High teacher, Gail Spirit Sky. Homer and Susan were both artists and you could tell from the first moment you came near their yard. A “man” would greet you from the garden and their walls were covered with their bright and colorful paintings and collages. They didn’t have a big TV room; they had renovated their house to have a huge sunlit studio at the back of the house instead. Once I took my kids to Lancaster to an arts festival. Where they were showing their work We loved it and bought something made by each of them. One of my sons especially loved a piece of Homer’s that was layers of painted paper cut in the shape of a small fish. How thrilling to be able to let a 10 year old pick his first piece of art. We enjoy living with it to this day.

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As I heard from Gail that Homer’s health was failing I invited myself over again to see if he would be my first Urban Zen guinea pig. I had just finished my training intensive to learn the Urban Zen modalities and needed to practice my new craft. Homer was willing and seemed to really enjoy the simple movements, the relaxation and the reiki. With just a few movements his circulation increased and after the first session he declared that his hands were warm for the first time in months. He seemed to love the reiki especially and would be peaceful for several hours after our sessions. Even as he was in terrible pain from shingles and other problems he continued to joke with me during our time together. He had a great sense of humor!

When I broke and sprained my ankles I couldn’t return for several months and by the time I was able to navigate stairs again he was much weaker and not getting out of bed. And he didn’t want any visitors. I was longing to see him again and finally in the last week of his life I was able to meet him one more time. I wiped his eyes, gave him water and held his hand. I got a chance to tell him I loved him.

Homer, what a life you lived. I’m so glad I got to know you.

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2 Responses to Homage to Homer
  1. Karen Godfrey

    Tears of Love and Grace embrace me as I read these heartfelt words of deep soulfulness! Thanks for sharing dear Marcia! Hugs!

  2. Gail Larned

    I remember Susan and Homer. They were the “seniors” in the room and an inspiration to me. Now I’m the senior in the room. I’m grateful for the grace that they embodied for us all.