What is passion? What does it look like, sound like, feel like? Is it something we instinctively know when we are around its presence, or can it be palpated like a strong radial pulse? Every so often a person comes into our lives whose passionate light shines so bright that comets pale in comparison, and much like a blazing comet or shooting star, their presence comes and goes in a blink of an eye.
Edward (EJ) Mascaro was that comet, and anyone close enough to feel his glowing warmth understood they were in the presence of someone special. EJ was the embodiment of passion and dedication, and he had a desire to share it with anyone willing listen. We lost EJ last week – and now, the brightest of lights has dimmed and the world truly is a darker place without his presence.
I have drawn my fair share of tribute cartoons over the years and I will argue their validity to help heal the open wounds of personal tragedy. This was the very discussion EJ and I had two weekends ago while teaching together at a F.O.O.L.S. event here in Ohio. He wanted to know the creation process ins and outs of a cartoon I created memorializing Matt Negedly just a few short months ago. Never in my wildest nightmare did I think my next drawing would be for EJ. But here, on this page is my tribute to a man that few words can describe. Many of you may recognize this as a cartoon called Two-Hatter created of few years ago. What you don’t know is that EJ inspired that cartoon and he always referred to it as his favorite. Yes, for the obvious reasons, but also because he was the quintessential ham!!! Always front and center – with all the attention on him. That was EJ. While agonizing over what to say, what to draw, my eyes wavered to that cartoon and my heart filled with colorful conversations and tears began to fall on blank paper. Then, in his typical unfiltered way, I heard him whisper into my ear “that’s a no-brainer, dumbass!” And he was, of course, correct!
I have spent the better part of the last three days reimagining that cartoon into the illustration you see today. An illustration that hopefully captures the essence of the man and the character that lay beneath the gear. Some of the small details are private, but most all will recognize and relate to. And if you didn’t know EJ, he was all of this, and so much more. He was passion and dedication personified.
Firefighter. Instructor. Teacher. Student. Soldier. Warrior. Friend. Brother! Much of EJ’s life has been spent in the service of others, from heroic soldier to outstanding firefighter, to SC-TF1 specialist to committed instructor, he touched so many lives. How can we best honor EJ? By carrying on his legacy and sharing what we know. By being passion and dedication personified.
I pledge to embrace people openly as he did. To hug often and allow people to become close to me. To have his lust for knowledge and his willingness to pass it forward. To laugh in the midst of hardship and grasp its life-lessons. To bring honor to the fire service by my every action. I will fail to live up to his legacy, most will, but I will never stop trying. I pledge to be passion and dedication personified.
Thank you for your friendship, EJ. Thank you for your brotherhood. Thank you for being a part of my life, though it was much too brief. I will never again look at a shooting star the same way.
I will miss your radiant smile and infectious laugh. I will miss our conversations. I will miss teaching with you. I will miss our hugs. You will live on in all of us, EJ - I pledge!