Featured Widow/er - Ed Bradley – Accomplished Musician Finds Healing on Skates, in Music, and in Love
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Ed Bradley became a musician when he was just six years old, learning to play the piano and then going on to master guitar, bass and mandolin among others. His first band was the Quiet Ones, a group of 16 year old kids whose popularity at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, Rhode Island was considerable in the summer months according to Ed. That was in the mid to late 1960’s. He played bass and in 1970 switched to guitar and that has been his instrument of choice ever since.
He met his wife Patricia Leach the first time when she was 16 and dating a friend of his, then again 22 years later when they worked together. The two started going out. “She was quiet and I kind of liked the way she was,” says Ed. He continued to play in various bands but together they shared an interest in auto races at Riverside Park in Massachusetts. After dating about a year, they married in 1973 making a life in Manchester, where Ed had grown up and they celebrated the birth of a son and daughter shortly after.
By 1997 he was playing in bands full time, five to seven days a week and in August of that year, he was on tour in the Cape Cod area, a place he had always enjoyed visiting. A performance on Nantucket was scheduled immediately following his run on the Cape. When Ed received a call to contact the Chatham Police Department he could hardly believe what he was hearing, learning that Patricia had been killed in a car accident back home. She was 45 years old.
“It was a life changing experience,” says Ed who remembers his drive home from the Cape. “It was gloomy and rainy. It fit the mood I was in. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” Ed was 47 and couldn’t stop waking up with nightmares.
After the wake and funeral, he found that sitting around at home just wasn’t an option, so he jumped right back into his band’s tour schedule on the Cape. “We did what we had to do. But everything was different, the sky, the leaves, everything had changed. I drove myself to do it. My therapy was to get back to playing again.” The band, appropriately named, was Mass-Conn-Fusion.
Ed was contacted by grief support groups but he had no interest. “I fought my way through it on my own terms,” says Ed who advises others in similar situations to “follow their heart” and do what they feel called to do. For him, that meant writing and music. He wrote a song, and then wrote a record of his relationship with Patricia. “It was something I felt compelled to do. I didn’t know what to do so I did what came naturally. I wrote long hand, and I’m not sure why. I was driven though. I wanted to do it before I forgot.” He says it was “automatic writing,” uncensored and freeing, and later gave it to his daughter.
“There were times I didn’t really care to go on. I said I can’t do this, times when I was incredibly depressed.” He took St. John’s Wort, a natural product which may relieve some symptoms of depression.
In 1998, he taught himself to roller blade, which has had a huge impact on him. “That was my big therapy, my major therapy. I was really driven to do it. Roller blading stopped me from drinking. You have to fight your way through grief. I didn’t need to create depression on top of depression,” says Ed who skated in parking lots, paved trails and even went to Stowe, Vermont. He had seen people skating on paved trails on the Cape. I wanted to do the trails and it got me in really good shape. I was 49 or 50 and in the best physical shape of my life. My emotions were back on track.”
In May, 1999 he met Linda Till, first through a mutual friend, Eric Fletcher at Beller’s Music, and later at the Great Harvest Bread Company. They just kept running into each other and started dating. Linda was an art therapist at Natchaug Hospital at the time, and owner of Blue Heart Expressive Arts Studio in Manchester. As it turned out, Linda had cut Ed’s personal ad of the local newspaper, considered responding to it but never did, and then misplaced the ad. It was the only time Ed had placed an ad, which ran only for a few weeks. It just wasn’t the right time. But then they did meet. Ed had been looking for a roller blading partner and as it turned out, the two knew a lot of the same people. Linda was an artist and so was Ed so they connected on a creative level and understood and supported each other.
Ed can’t clearly define what the connection was, only that he loved to see her smile and for him, that was enough. They married in July of 2000 on Mount Greylock, the tallest mountain in Massachusetts.
“We really like it up there,” says Ed. “Nice views, and it was a small wedding. We took a limo from the house up the mountain.” They were married at Bascom Lodge by a justice of the peace and then went on to Newport, Rhode Island for their honeymoon which included a day trip to Cape Cod.
Nearly fifteen years later Ed says that life has been “interesting.” He doesn’t play as much as he used to, but is part of the band, Collins & Bradley, playing acoustic guitar.
“I really had to have all those distractions,” says Ed about his time after Patricia died. “I didn’t steep in misery. Everything became so different. I became more outgoing. I realized when you’re grieving it’s like waves in the ocean. At first the waves are close together. As time goes on, the waves get further apart. Grief still comes up if it wants to. You have to follow your heart. Don’t let people tell you how long your period of grief can be. Do what you have to do to deal with it.”