Edward Henderson — known professionally as Edward Readicker- Henderson — has died at age 53, just a few short weeks after the passing of his beloved dog, Albert.
Edward was one of my best friends. He was also the best writer I know.
And if you know me, you know that I could easily spend the rest of my life only reading things written by my friends (a strange hazard of being a professional writer). Hopefully that gives you some kind of idea of the admiration and esteem in which I hold both my friend and his work.
I could talk about why I like his writing, or what makes it great, but it’d be much better if you just…
Watch his TED Talk, “Kill Your Bucket List” or…
Read some of his articles. His best friend Amanda recommends this one…
Cheating Death in National Geographic Traveler.
And she’s right. It’s a great one. Or you could buy his most recent book…
Or just go to his website and look around…
Doing any of these things will enrich your life in a way that far exceeds the time you expend on them.
Edward enriched my life in countless ways. He has been one of my closest friends for more than 25 years, though we never met in person. He knew me better than anyone else in the world, save my wife. We talked about everything, all aspects of our lives.
Things Edward loved included: his dog, cheesy 80s horror films, gas station pizza, Chocolate Genius, and his friends. Things Edward loathed included: CGI special effects, shaved pubic hair on women (“makes them look like girls”), and fellow travelers unwilling to shut-the-hell-up during sunrise at the Grand Canyon after being granted special permission to visit an off-limits overlook. (True story.)
Amid all that conversation — over 1800 threads (not posts, threads) on just one of his email addresses — we talked a lot about writing, asking each other for advice on drafts (Edward sometimes wrote a hundred drafts or more of an article), trying to hone in on an exactly right word or phrase, or just chatting about what we were trying to do in our work and why.
We met because of an article he did on (Japanese) Manga in a long-defunct magazine called Amazing Heroes . I don’t remember exactly what about that article prompted me to write him, but that began our decades long correspondence, first via old-fashioned post, and later via email. (He once said that little article got him the best return on investment ever: I feel the same.) We only talked by phone two or three times, and one of those was when he helped me out by doing a fill-in interview on Uncanny Radio when my co-host couldn’t make it.
(Once I dig up that interview, I’ll link it here.)
After giving it some thought, Edward and I decided that we would actually meet this summer, when a trip was taking my family out his way. Sadly, that meeting will never take place.
Or perhaps that’s fitting, as ours was a friendship purely of the mind, conducted almost entirely through the “telepathy” of writing — one brain to another, with nothing physical getting in the way. If we’d met, maybe we’d have bugged the hell out of each other.
But probably not.
Edward was my most valued advisor (especially on writing) and confidant. And I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do now that I can’t just drop him a line and get wise advice on whatever’s troubling me — or just to bullshit about the weather (we both hate the heat) and what a drag it is getting old. What I do know is that it will take a long for his death to sink in, and for me to break the habit of thinking “I should drop Edward a line” every few days. His passing leaves too big a hole in my life to fully comprehend. And I know that nothing will ever come close to filling that void.
My friend had encyclopedic knowledge on many subjects — film, art, honey, music, folklore, Buddhist temples — but especially on writing, books (he once turned town a chance to be on Oprah to talk about book collecting), Alaska, and travel.
And it was travelling that kept him alive for more than a decade after doctors first told him he had a year to live. (Did I mention that Edward was one of the best travel writers in the world? He was. Check his resume and awards.) The docs proclaimed his imminent doom at least five more times, and every time, they were wrong. They didn’t know Edward — or his determination to keep going, to keep finding new things and new places to see.
Now he’s gone off ahead of us, exploring new horizons, whatever they might be, and those of us left behind can only miss his wit, wisdom, and gentle voice.
But if we’re very Quiet, I’m sure we can still hear him.
Goodnight, dear friend. Rest well. You’ve earned it.
— Steve Sullivan
Read AFAR magazine’s tribute to Edward by clicking here.
I just learned yesterday, from Ed’s cousin Pat, about his passing. Nice tribute. I had not seen Ed in many years, but last year decided to visit him at his home near Bellingham, and I’m very glad I did. Ed was special.
I’m glad you got to spend some time with him recently.
Ed was an amazing person.
Life just won’t seem like life without him.
I did not know Edward, but I have reread his article “cheating death” many times and had many friends and family members read too. I was just reading it again tonight for all the inspiration that comes from the lovely words of this man. I am so sorry to see he passed recently, but I hope he did with a feeling that he lived his life fully. I guess that is all we can ask.
Edward met death with his own unique style, and a little bit of humor than only his closest friends might appreciated. He was an amazing guy.
Steve, my husband and I have read your tribute to our son many times and find it very comforting. Perhaps you knew his ashes were taken to the Stikene River on the anniversary of his death. We were unable to go, but his friend Amanda and his cousin Patti thankfully did this for him. I ad sent them two poems he had written when he was seventeen, along with tributes from his siblings which they read. Patti infomed us that the ceremony was beautiful and that they deposited his ashes among the icebergs near the glacier, a spot he dearly loved and which he had taken us to see three years ago. Thank you for your tribute to him.
Jean, your comment touched me so deeply, that I couldn’t comment when I first read it. I was so honored to be your son’s friend, and I still miss him nearly every day. Amanda and Patti kept me informed of his memorial, and I believe they read something of mine at the service, too. I wish we could all have been there, but life doesn’t always work that way. My love to you and the rest of your family.
Steve, I just reread your tribute to my son Edward and again I was deeply touched by your love for my boy. I miss him so much! His father died a year later and I guess the feeling of loss will never go away. I do not think Edward would have become the man he was without the influence of his Dad. Many of my friends have discovered his writing and been amazed by his depth of feeling for the small things. Thank you again for your tribute. Sincerely, Jean Henderson
Jean, reading your new comment brings back a flood of memories of my dear friend, your son. So sorry to hear about his dad. I’m not sure I knew that. Ed (I hope you don’t mind my calling him that, as that’s the name I first knew him by) loved both you and his father so much! I know that he really hoped his illnesses would allow him to outlive both of you, because he knew the heartache his early passing would cause. Sadly, that was not to be — though I think we both know he tried his best. Sometimes it feels like forever ago that Ed passed; other times it feels like no time at all. In a way, because we never met physically (so sad about that; we’d scheduled a meeting later that summer when he passed), sometimes I feel like he was just a dream I had. “I had this wonderful friend Ed, who I used to correspond with about all of life…!” I know I speak for myself, and his dear Amanda (Ax), and so many others in saying that our lives were made better by knowing Ed. And I know that his life was made infinitely better by you and his dad. He loved you both with all his heart. With Love — Steve Sullivan