Eulogy for John Alfred Mapstone IV whose death is recorded as April 6, 2017
In the telling of this eulogy I am reminded of the book “Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card. The protagonist is charged with the “speaking” of the true essence of the deceased. This usually meant telling both the good and the bad, but in such a way that the roots of his character were understood more deeply than the many branches of his character. John, like us all, had deep roots hidden by the earth and displayed only through his redwood trunk and branches. You saw in John only what you were looking for.
The proper “speaking” for John begins at his end. John Alfred Mapstone IV went missing on March 2, 2017 and his body was found in Bear Creek near Medford, OR on April 6, 2017. On January 17 John told me that the Creek was alive and that it speaks. He briefly told me that it swallowed him once but that he had chosen the world to live in and not to return home to Heaven. A few days later he posted that story on facebook in a format that could not easily be read. But I have that piece today and will read it following his eulogy.
Those who survived John wondered at where he could have gone when he went missing. It was all too easy for us to imagine scenarios where he had just isolated himself for another bender, maybe he went into the wilderness to commune with God and nature, or it may have been any variation of what actually happened. Both suicide and homicide were scenarios that went through my mind and with homicide having been ruled out and there being no way to determine whether or not his death was suicide we accept that the cause of death was “accidental drowning.”
“What kind of legacy do I leave behind?” This is the question that John asked in every action he took. He, like myself, wanted the Mapstone name to mean something greater than what our birth father did with it. John truly felt that the sins of the father could be redeemed by the actions of the son. This task, however, was too monumental for one son to bare as we both inherited different aspects of our father’s darkness. Thus John, again like myself, turned to writing as the greatest expression of redemption. The words that appeared on the page were the great key to unlocking all that was hidden. Through these words he intended to move the barrier of earth to reveal the redwood roots. Yet his demons fought him at every turn.
John had a son whom he loved very much. Every father who cares worries about the legacy he heaps upon his children. John was the same in that he wanted to be a great father giving rise to a great son. Yet his demons overwhelmed him. In the face of these struggles John did what he thought best, whether it was the best action or not, and he put distance between himself and his son. He never stopped loving him. He never stopped dreaming of him. He always carried his son with him in every action he took and every word he wrote.
John later had a daughter whom he loved very much. For John, the birth of his daughter meant a second chance to be the father he knew he was inside. This was his opportunity to make up for the sins he heaped upon his son. Again his demons overwhelmed him and his family was being torn apart. This time John likely felt he had no control over the events that followed, but again distance was placed between father and daughter on the requirement that he clean up his act. He never stopped loving her. He never stopped dreaming of her. He always carried his daughter with him in every action he took and every word he wrote.
John’s legacy is not just his children; it is each and everyone of us here today. His life is now resurrected within each of us who loved and survived him. Thus it is now our responsibility to see where John is in our spirits and redeem him through our own actions. When we think of our anger, our addictions, and our mental illnesses that is where we see John’s demons. Yet when we see our passion, our faith, our love of family, and our pursuit of legacy that is where we see John’s angels. In this way we redeem John by recognizing our demons but giving birth to those angels.
In order to understand John’s demons we must recognize that our lives were shrouded in darkness with only stars for light. We each inherited some different aspect of our birth father’s own mental illness. This manifested in the blessing of seeing the world in a vastly different way than others do. Yet its curse was that we were filled with anger and the literal voices of every regret and every call to do self harm. We were abandoned and neglected and thus we abandoned and neglected others adding to the long list of regrets we carried with us. Our mother was often the only source of starlight in our lives. Who can blame starlight for not shining brighter when the world is already so dark? For John the starlight was always enough.
Dealing with demons is not as easy as it appears in the movies where all it usually takes is the decision to fight. We fought with our demons and we had made the choice to do so; however the choice would take its toll in the form of addiction. Our addictions were definitely very different but they were addictions nonetheless. Each took their toll on every relationship we were ever in. John chose to step away from his addictions over and over, but when the addiction have been with him since childhood how was he to separate the man from his demons?
John was full of creative light even still. In the days since he passed I imagined his life in Medford, OR. Knowing that he was transient I imagined him down at homeless shelters and food shelves regaling people there with his tales. I imagine that the homeless loved his stories and loved the energy about him. In this way he spread light amongst the loss in a way that college students on a Sunday volunteering could never do. This creative light he poured into his works. His works “Orion’s Heart” and “Nephilum” were never properly edited and published, but they represented his very soul and were his gift to the world. It is our hope that we can get them published for him post mortem.
John drew inspiration for his work from God’s own work. He frequented the wilderness and national parks whenever he could and even as a youth he would spend long hours fishing at the Boy Scout Landing. Though he was a man of incredible faith in God he also embraced our Celtic heritage and adored druidic lore and teachings. This gave him vast access to divine inspiration that he wanted to share with each and everyone of you here today.
Let us remember John for the beautiful man he was and the legacy he leaves with us.
Let us honor John’s struggles in life by recognizing them in us.
Let us love his children as if they were our own.