So Saturday was the eighth anniversary of the death of my friend, Chris Harvey. I was 24 when he died, and it came as a huge shock. He was the first person I ever really 'lost'.
I'm struggling with this blog post, but it feels too important to not write something. His mom said it better than I could:
I keep thinking about lots of little things - bits and pieces, mostly.
I remember how shocked we were to get the news that he'd attempted suicide. I remember how hugely relieved we were to hear that he'd survived it with nothing but bruises and broken bones. I remember how my sister and I went to visit him, how the three of us were joking around (in that kind-of-uncomfortable 'holy shit, dude' kind of way) and how it felt like this would be a turning point for him - how glad we were that he would get the help he needed and get his life back on track.
I remember getting a call from his mom while I was at work, and how I let it go to voicemail.
I remember not even wondering about it until hours later - how it didn't even occur to me that anything bad could have happened.
I remember playing the message that told me he had died.
It seems so, so unfair, even eight years later - that someone could survive a ten-story fall, but not a tiny little blood clot. And I know some of my friends still feel guilty even now, because they hadn't gone to see him yet - because we all assumed that he was going to be fine. We were young, most of us barely more than teenagers, and we'd never had anything but time.
It was a hard lesson, but we tried our best to learn. We took turns speaking at his funeral, half of us incoherent through tears. We went with his family to scatter his ashes at the lake. We printed out his picture and took it with us to go see the first Transformers movie, because he had been so excited for it. Even today, his name comes up at D&D sessions and in fond 'remember when' moments. And here I am now, trying to communicate him to you and making a total hash of it, because his life is what matters, and all I've talked about is his death.
Maybe that's because death is so much more finite and expressible. A cause, a date, a narrative small enough that we literally put it on a certificate. You can't do that with a life. A person doesn't fit into a little 100-word column in the newspaper, no matter how eloquently we try to summarize them. I can tell you all about how good he was at doing the Eric Cartman voice, how you could loan him any Nintendo RPG you wanted and know that you'd get the cartridge back with every character leveled to 99, how he drove his brother absolutely bananas watching Toy Story on repeat all summer long. I think that's the secondary sadness - I can go on and on, but for everyone who didn't know Chris while he was here, he will only ever exist in summary.
You know, a wonderful new friend of mine gave me a phenomenal compliment a few weeks ago, which I didn't fully appreciate then. "I think that's why people like you," she said. "When you talk to people, they feel seen." It was nice to hear at the time, but the more I think about it, the more vital that seems. We need people to see us, to really pay attention and understand us, so that they can carry us forward when we're not here.
And to be honest, that's a big part of what keeps driving me on to do all these cons and events, to go to workshops and parties and adventures every chance I get. Part of it is egotistical book-pushing mercantilism, yes. But when Chris died, I went from being someone who had never experienced a tragedy to someone who had. It changed me. And I know that someday, something else will happen - an illness, an ordeal, a death - and I'll change again. The person I am right now will be gone. I'm mostly okay with that, but I desperately want you to see her while she's here - to have proof that she was real.
And of course, I want to see you-all too - to know you and carry you with me. I want you to take Chris with you, and so does Dana Beth (who has given her warmest blessing to my sharing all this.) I want us all to carry our nearest and dearest with us, and to constantly reach for new people too, so that the people we are today can continue on, no matter what happens to us tomorrow.
And the more I think about it, the more ordinary and sensible that seems. After all, we're human beings. We sustain each other.
To infinity, and beyond.