It is a year since I wrote the original draft of this blog, and at that time it was too fresh to share. Steph and I went through it again today, and I am sharing this with her blessing and to honour her and Louis today and every day. You’ll want to ensure you have some tissues handy, this is not an easy read, but an important one…
It is 5:44am. I’m watching a genuinely shitty 90’s easy listening playlist on YouTube and crying a little bit between audible laughter at magnificent messages from friends in various time zones who have been awake for hours. We are all carrying varying levels of triggered fear and grief for one of my inner circle goddesses. A dear friend for years now, she is managing the unimaginable after losing her cheeky, wonderful, perfectly imperfect and absolutely adored and appreciated eldest son was a passenger in a car crash that ended his life a few short weeks ago. There’s no manual for this and the pain comes in waves that render her helpless for periods and then she picks herself back up and carries on with her busy and beautiful life. She does it for her younger son, she does it because there’s really just no other option. She is incredible and one day she’s going to be the rock and a source of shelter and comfort for someone as her grief counselor has been to her. It’s that cycle of connection and meaning that brings some strange clarity to the anguish of such loss. She keeps going. I don’t know how. But she’s surrounded by Love and held in the hearts of people we both know and countless other lives of people I will never meet who she’s touched personally and professionally by being the stoic, sensible, fun, fabulous, wonderful woman she is. We have been through a lot together over the years. She’s as much a poker-faced complexity as I am a hot mess and open book. It’s an honour to have earned her trust and respect and it is an honour to be close to her in a time of need as she has been for me in my darkest hours. Although, constantly afraid I will say or do something stupid, or trigger her grief, just being available seems to be enough.
It’s difficult to even see any teenage boy without being triggered. This presents a challenge as I have my own teenage boy and have been peripherally invested in countless numbers of his quirky friends lives. I see them engaging in various levels of dumbassery and watch them navigating life while Steph is being ripped to shreds by the hole left with Louis’ passing. When someone we Love is in pain, we want so bad to do something to help, but there’s sweet fuck all anyone can do and between the tears my darling friend blows me away with her behemoth strength and vulnerability.
Life is a lot. It’s a beautiful, magical, excruciating mystery and not a single one of us are going to make it out of it alive.
For Louis’ funeral (which spilled out into the parking lot with hundreds upon hundreds of mourners) there were so many fabulous Louis stories from both his mother and father. There’s years more Louis stories for me to hear, just as every time I saw Steph there was more shenanigans to report. So, during this surreal sadness, I sat, clinging to my ex-husband (also a friend of Steph’s) and shaking with laughter while ugly-crying as Carl and Steph delivered funny stories about their creative and hilarious “volcano” kid who would be chill on the sports field then burst into action like a volcano. Louis saw potential and brought out creativity and adventure in countless peers and people. A kind, generous, quirky 17 year old brimming with passion, potential and possibility. He touched so many lives and sparked bravery and creativity in so many people across countless social groups. They continue to honour Louis with their passion for photography and adventure.
Grief is an inevitable part of everyone’s journey. The mere thought of losing a child piques an unrivaled and visceral pain in any feeling human being. Friends who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Steph have shared a sinking and sincere sorrow for her online and IRL. When we were trying to settle on words for Louis’ coffin, another of the long-haul goddesses in Wellington suggested the very eulogy that Steph chose to be shared at the funeral. We. Are. All. Connected. We are all miracles. We are all completely unaware of the joy, pain and journey that lays ahead of us. We are all going to have unimaginable grief enter our frame of vision, directly or indirectly. The tenderness and support that pours out is reserved only for the darkest of moments in our lives.
I’ll never be able to shape or edit this blog to do justice to the things I want to say to and about Steph or anyone who has lost a child. So I will end with a note of gratitude to all our mutual friends who have been supportive of her, and checked in with me too. There are those who have known grief that I still can’t imagine, and they’ve all said the same thing: Just be there. Just check in. Just be ready and available.
What an incredible privilege it is to have such wise and wonderful energy, and what a terrible and strange thing it is to realise that the depth and sincerity of such wisdom is absolutely impossible to reach or feel without such excruciating tragedy.
I’ll end by sharing the absolutely beautiful speech from Louis’ memorial. And I will wish you comfort and strength as you reflect on the loss and Love that will almost certainly be triggered by this clumsy and inadequate blog, written by a clumsy and inadequate friend who is feeling so grateful to be available to be clumsy and inadequate but present through this unimaginable time in my sweet goddesses’ life.
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him/her that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let him/her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her/his eyes, that those photons created within her/him constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.