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Marc Awodey 

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November 4, 1960 – October 13, 2012

Marc was a Burlington painter, poet, teacher,musician and longtime art critic for Seven Days. Hisbrother Steve Awodey delivered this eulogy for Marc’s memorial service onNovember 2, 2012, at the Unitarian Universalist Church. With permission we areadapting it here, nearly one year since Marc’s death at age 51. We miss him.

I’d like to say a few words about my dear brother Marc. Whenhe was in second grade, they used to call him “Porky”; and a gang of kids whoran around the playground, terrorizing the girls, I suppose, called themselvesthe “Porky Patrol.” In third grade, Marc started playing the cello, and youwould see him carrying it everywhere — on the school bus, in his Little Leagueuniform — and they started calling him Cello, and that stuck.

I’ve been thinking about him a lot, and one of the things I’vewondered is why people called Marc nicknames. No one ever had trouble callingme Steve, but people liked to call him something different. And they weren'tteasing him — rather, it was a sign of affection, a kind of endearment. Andreally, throughout Marc’s life a peculiar thing about him was that most peoplewho got to know him liked him. And so I’ve wondered what it was about him thatwas so special, so endearing.

I suppose I’m trying to understand because, since he’s been gone,I’ve been trying to somehow hold onto it, and maybe by putting it into words I’llbe able to do that.

One thing I’ve come up with is that Marc was extraordinarily sensitive.He was also unusually gentle, never mean, and incredibly good-natured. “Tenderand mild,” as we would joke.

Another thing is that he was extremely awkward, in a way that’sdifficult to describe.  It’s notjust that he was physically clumsy -— although he certainly was — but he wasalso somehow always out of place, he never quite fit in. He was somehow alittle bit different, for lack of a better description.

This combination of sensitivity and differentness gave Marc achildlike quality that perhaps helps describe what people found so endearingabout him. But it also caused him to suffer in ways that most of us don’t.

He experienced the world around him and his own emotions with anintensity that was at times, for him, unbearable.

His differentness left him always on the edge of society — as anartist, a disheveled eccentric. But even as an artist he was never in themainstream, always an outsider, a difficult character.

And, of course, this life outside the work-a-day world and theart establishment contributed to his chronic financial difficulties, whichalways weighed heavily on him — on top of his poor health and various accidentsand injuries.

But by the same token, it was this combination of traits thatgave Marc his distinctive perspective as an artist. And there was somethingmore: a strength of character, and intellect, a drive that led him to develophis native talent, perfect his technique as a painter, hone his skill as awriter, and add to his knowledge of the theory and history of art. That is whatenabled him to produce such works of great beauty. At its best, his art istranscendental. It has a tranquil harmony, a serenity, that reveals none of theturmoil or struggle in his life. It is as though the turmoil was the price Marcwas paying to produce the art.

Unable to function within the grooves of normal society, hecreated for himself a way of life that suited his needs and talents; a life ofmeaning, value and dignity. And he thrived, in his own way, as an artist,writer, poet and musician; as a teacher and a friend; as a lover; as a father,uncle, son and brother.

The Germans have a word, Lebenskünstler —it’s one of those German words that doesn’t translate, something like “life-artist.”It’s often used as a joke, or even a put-down — but to Marc it appliedliterally.

I’ve been trying to find some meaning, not in his death but in hislife. Some lesson he taught us, some inspiration, for myself, my children andperhaps for you who loved and admired him. This is what I’ve come up with:

Hetook what was given him: the special sensitivity, the awkward differentness,the misfortune — and the good, andhe found within himself the strength, the patience, the drive, the beauty, thelove, the wit, the peace, tomake his life a work of art.

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