A father in Venice dies too soon, just like his father before him

By Martin L. Jacobs
He was having difficulty breathing. It was early on March 30, still dark outside in his quiet Venice neighborhood. Hours later in the hospital, ER doctors determined that he had pneumonia; an infection in the lungs. It had taken hold, and had an ally in its cruel purpose: a congenital heart defect he had battled all his life.

Aion Velie was dead by the end of the day. He was 50 years old.

Born Douglas Velie, Aion was tall and framed large, with a broad smile and bright friendly eyes. He came to California from Denver with his sister on a classic VW bus road trip. His singular mission was to get into UCLA. Rebuffed, he audited classes and badgered professors until they finally let him in; that’s his stubbornness, his perseverance. He changed his name so other faculty wouldn’t know he was that guy, the one who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

He was also a friend of mine. He’d bought a house on Lake Street in Venice a few years ago, just a few blocks from my own. We had worked together many times. His last email to me was dated March 23; a perfunctory note about a job we had just finished. Aion also had a young son, like me. We’d meet at Penmar Park sometimes and watch our kids run around on the grass.

Aion’s father had also died young. Aion was just five years old when it happened; his own son’s age. This was tragedy compounded. The circularity was undeniable and distressing. And, his father had succumbed to the same cardiac defect. Was it a biological imperative, destiny, or just the untimely convergence of two ailments whose sum was greater than their parts? It makes one consider whether our efforts have any influence in the matter. It makes one want to pass on the oat bran and just get the cheese danish anyway.

He was a talented director and cameraman; a hard working media industry member, often traveling, often bearing the merciless schedules that those in entertainment willingly bear. Perhaps he pushed himself too hard and that contributed. Or maybe that stubbornness just rounded on him and collected its debt.

Aion was in his prime, productive years. Long past the struggle to learn a craft or build a reputation, he had already achieved excellence. He already had the brass ring. His principal client was Team Detroit, a top-tier agency, and most of that work was for The Ford Motor Company, the American brand of brands.

The son he loved so dearly is in his first year of elementary school. One can only imagine how profoundly this loss will change his son’s life, but one can also hope he will transcend the loss, as Aion did with the loss of his own father, and become a traveler, a creator, a good human. Childhood specialists call it object permanence; the moment
when children realize that things exist even when they are out of view. His father was not permanent. We are not permanent, but we can leave beautiful things behind, like children, and images on film.

Aion’s family found a message on his computer that must have been intended for his son. I don’t know if he wrote it himself, but I could find no other source. His end came rudely, with precious little warning, but these words express a preparation for it. It is an appropriate epitaph; unapologetically brash, intimate, and full of the force of love:

“And trust that beyond the bullshit afterlife that so many religions preach, I will be there in the wind, in your sense of adventure, the way you look at nature.I have spent enough time with you and we have shared so much that our vision, the way we breathe, the rhythms our bodies have occupied in the same time and space, that I know what you feel at times, and you know that of me as well. I will reach out from beyond and be in the stars, the magical nights where anything seems possible. I will be there in those moments.”

Martin L. Jacobs is a sound designer for the film and theme park industries by day and a writer of crime fiction on nights and weekends. Reach him at mljacobs@scriturra.com.