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Hoping Machine

13769385_1237780639566013_7469367090825700743_nI lost my friend George Wesley today. Cancer stole him from us. Cancer is the devil. It is evil in its purest form. It seeks health, and its aim is destruction. It does not discriminate and it does not get sidetracked. It’s a bully that never backs down.

I received the news early this morning. Since then I’ve been engulfed in a sort of fog. I’ve been physically and mentally wandering….not getting anywhere either way.

You think you’re prepared, but you never are. The mind has an almost endless capacity for hoping. The great Woody Guthrie once called human beings great “hoping machine(s)”. I knew George was ill. Very ill. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he wouldn’t, in some way, find a way to beat the shit out of this thing. Because some people are just born to live. Dying doesn’t even enter into the equation. I’m a walking, talking hoping machine. And George Wesley is one of the reasons. And today, I’ve been diminished. We all have. To be diminished. Is there anything more sad than that?

I loved him. I told him that the last time we spoke. He gave me infinitely more than I ever gave him. He was the most generous man alive. I suspect there’s a lot of us out there admitting that to ourselves tonight. George just engulfed you. He radiated like a summer firefly. He wrapped you in a hug and blessed you, and turned non-believers into believers. I’m telling you this. If there ain’t no heaven….somebody ought to invent the place. Because for George to be anywhere else right now would be a cosmic blunder.

He thanked us for the inspiration. Truth be told nobody ever heard George’s music without feeling uplifted……like a child trying out a trampoline for the first time. He bobbed and weaved and sang Jah’s praises and invited everybody along for the ride. His music was unconditional and spiritual. He could rock. He could roll. He could groove. He could bring the funk. And he did it all on the offbeat. He asked for nothing in return except humanity. Peace. Love. In many ways George was a complex man. But his message could not have been more simple.

When we cry, we do so mostly for ourselves. I’m a selfish prick sometimes. I want him here. I want to call him up….to write some more songs together….to weave our guitars together and find melodies and phrases and reasons to smile. I want to sit at his knee and watch his hands on the frets….to close my eyes and listen when the visual gets too overwhelming. I want to hear him laugh with and at me. I want to call him and hear that growl….”greetings”….on the other end of the phone. I want to be blessed by Jah and I don’t even know who the hell Jah is. I want to see that smile obliterate the need for any other lights in the room. I want my kids to know him better and longer. I want my friend back. I’m selfish. For ME. My tears today were self-pity. I’m guilty. But I’m not sorry. I feel like Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption. “I guess I just miss my friend”.

George deserved more than this world gave him. Much more. All he did was give. All the world did was take. George lived with that. He left songs on everybody’s lips and smiles on their faces. And then he was alone, and life rolled the dice and whisked him away because she can be a dirty bitch sometimes.

Since the day I was born George Wesley has been in this world. Tomorrow will be the first full day he’s not here. It’s like a hole in the musical ozone layer. I have memories. And I have the music. That has to be enough. It doesn’t feel like it is, but it has to be.

When you grind life down to its powder, all it really consists of are the moments that you can remember. The rest is lost in the ether. The word “unforgettable” is dangerous, because forcing a memory and actually having one is the difference between knowing a phone number and repeating one you just heard over and over again so you can quick dial it before it’s gone.

With George nothing was forced. He was unforgettable for one reason. Because I’ll never forget him.

In peaceful water that’s where I’ll be
With eyes closed I don’t need to see
The hurt we bring on each other
Bless up my sister and my brother

In  a bit..



Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Marie
    July 20, 2016 at 6:55 am

    This is a very moving tribute to a man that meant so much to so many. I did not know George, but recently suffered a loss of a great man to cancer. I couldn’t find the words- but this nails it. Thank you

  2. Lisa Lee
    July 20, 2016 at 6:59 am

    I know that George is mailing on you today. Those words are so beautiful and honest. He was everything you described. I’m blessed to have been able to know him and perform with him. God speed George.

  3. Jay Sweeney
    July 20, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Good job Tom!

  4. Timothy McGurl
    July 20, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Thank you, Flan-Man, for your wonderful word-smithing about Your Friend and My Friend; Your Musical Brother and My Musical Brother. And you are a “crafty-bugger”, (said with all due respect for your craft in songs and letters), because you know, as most of us do know, that Jah is the One God For Us All. George will be sorely missed, yet he “Shall be, and is now, Released” and fully Blessed with his One Jah. tmm

  5. July 20, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Excellent homage, my man.

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