Via fellow FtB blogger The Bolingbrook Babbler, I was sad to learn that Ed Brayton had died. I first got to know him when he reached out to me in 2012 to say that the FtB community wanted to invite me to join the group. At that time, I had been blogging since 2005 on the blogging platform set up by my university to encourage faculty, staff, and students to take up this practice.
I accepted his offer and have been here ever since. He was very helpful in helping me get settled in and working through the initial problems. I met him in person just twice, the first time at a conference organized by freethinkers in the Pittsburgh area and the second when the Cleveland freethinkers invited him to give a presentation. He was as genial and friendly in person as he seemed to be from my online interactions with him.
The bloggers here at that time were a friendly and supportive but feisty and opinionated group and as is often the case with creative and passionate people, there were conflicts among them in the email backchannels behind the scenes that would sometimes get very heated. Ed would try to smooth things over but I could see him getting increasingly frazzled at what he saw as storms in teacups. At some point, I forget when, he announced that dealing with these conflicts was affecting his health and that he was leaving and shifting his blog Dispatches From the Culture Wars over to Patheos. That was the first inkling that I had that he some serious health issues. Some time later other bloggers left too, some as a group to start The Orbit to be replaced by new ones. Online communities tend to be more fluid in their composition than those in the physical world.
I lost touch with Ed after he left and according to his last blog post, he had decided to go into hospice care earlier this month so as to end his life painlessly. His post, short and to the point as always, is a graceful statement about the end to a life spent fighting the good fight for social justice and skepticism. It is a poignant piece that I recommend that you read. The hundreds of warm and affectionate comments reflect the high esteem in which he was held.