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Saying Goodbye

<I>Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness of existence.</I><BR> Sydney Smith 1771-1845<BR><BR>If a man's life is measured by the number of friends he makes, then Eddie Johnson's life was as large as they come. The Church of the Rise was site of a moving tribute to #51, which is captured in <A HREF="http://www.brownstng.com/browns/news/btng_newswire.asp">today's newswire</A>.

I didn't know Eddie Johnson well, not like the throngs of friends who filled Westlake's Church of the Rise to capacity on Monday afternoon. In a nearly three-hour long service, Eddie's friends stood up, one after another, to talk of how Eddie inspired them and impacted their lives.

Even as someone who only met Eddie a few times near the end of his life, I could sense what a special man Eddie was. A large man when we first met in 2001, shortly before BrownsTNG turned into Bernie's Insiders, Eddie was always open. He never intimidated you through his size, or his fame on the football field. Even from our casual acquaintance, I could sense the inspiring and friendly man who was the subject of so many eulogies on Monday.

Ernest Byner told of the first time he met Eddie, Ricky Feacher spoke with passion, Herman Fontenot spoke with emotion. Bernie managed to make us laugh. Eddie's children bravely stood up and spoke without tears, although they elicited a few.

My memories are fleeting and ephemeral... Eddie laughing as he walks off with a large plate of food at a party... Eddie meeting a fan and webmaster for the first time and making him feel comfortable right away... Eddie inspiring behind a microphone last Winter as he proclaimed the power of his faith...

Marla Ridenour, Mary Kay Cabot, and others write about the service today on the newswire. They can write with the objectivity and detachment that a reporter needs, and that I wish I could muster.

But not even the most objective reporter, or the most inconsequential bystander, could possibly fail to recognize the feeling. No one who was there could ever fail to detect how very badly Eddie will be missed... or how many friends he has left behind. We will all miss him dearly.

- AB

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