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Edward Abbey Biography
Life - Death - Praise - Genealogy data

"Death is every man's final critic. To die well you must live bravely."

Edward Abbey died March 14 at his home in "Fort Llatikcuf " (read that backwards if you dare...) near Tucson, Arizona from complications from surgery. He was 62. He left behind a wife, Clarke Cartwright, five children, a father and more than a dozen pretty damn good books.

Abbey's burial was different from all others, as requested by himself. There are some rumors and misinformation flying around so here is an attempt to an "Abbey's Death FAQ"...

How did he go?
Ed died in March 1989 after four days of esophageal hemorrhaging. He had a recurrent problem with one group of veins. His stubborn disposition and his contempt for the abstrusities of medical "life-support" technology were factors. Decades of hard living and a touch of sheer physiological bad luck may also have been involved.

He was in and out of hospital several times during the last couple of months; finally he submitted to an operation, which might have saved him; but he was weakened, and he kept bleeding. He died at home among family and friends.
Did he leave a message?
Yes. "No comments"...
Abbey also wrote a messagedirected to his wife and pertained to what Ed Abbey wanted done for him, and not to him, after his death. A bit of it was published in Outside Magazine in June 1989:

He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake. No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag... Disregard all state laws concerning burial. "I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree." said the message.

As for graveside ceremony: He wanted gunfire, and a little music. "No formal speeches desired, thoug h the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the urge. But keep it all simple and brief." And then a big happy raucous wake. He wanted more music, gay and lively music. He wanted bagpipes. "And a flood of beer and booze! Lots of singing, dancing, talking, hollering, laughing, and lovemaking." said the message. And meat! Beans and chilis! And corn on the cob. Only a man deeply in love with life and hopelessly soft on humanity would specify, from beyond the grave, that his mourners receive corn on the cob.
So, was he really buried in the desert?
Yes, probably somewhere in the Cabeza Prieta desert in southern Arizona.
And did that wake happen?
In late March around 200 people gathered in Saguaro National Monument, just over the mountains from Tucson, for a "celebration" of the late Ed Abbey. There were great tubs of a hot desert stew, concocted from meat of mysterious provenance ("poached slow elk", in the terms of this recipe) by Doug Peacock. Another close friend blew taps on a trumpet. There were grief and booze and chilies. There were bagpipes. There was joy at the privilege of having known this man, at having heard his inimitable voice.
Can we go there and pay homage?
If you can find it... In the Backpacker magazine of September 1993 there is a nice article by David Peterson (editor of Confessions of a Barbarian) about his recent trip to visit Ed Abbey's grave. And Doug Peacock, who was with Ed when he died and later buried him, wrote the moving article Chasing Abbey in the August 1997 issue of Outside Magazine. This is as close you and me will get to it. What we can do is to read him and leave his bones in peace, and keep an eye on that large buzzard circling above you...
So it is an unmarked grave?

Yes, but apparently there is a rock at the place bearing a chiseled inscription that says:

January 29, 1927-March 14, 1989

You will not find it.

"If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture - that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves."

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