For those left living, death persists. Death is profound. Whereas life is a quest for inspiration, death is a search for meaning. When a friend of a friend passes away, you reach out to your friend and care for them as best you can. The outer edges of your heart breaks, but you stay strong for your friend every time they crumble. When an older relative passes away, you close your favorite book. You yearn for the excitement of turning each page for the first time, but settle for rereading your intertwining stories.
When a friend passes away, the second half of your favorite book--one that you never got to finish--is ripped to shreds. You carry with you a sadness that morphs and moves within you each day. You turn that sadness over, attempting to understand it, attempting to name it--emptiness? fear? regret? awe? defeat? acceptance?
Sadness is fatiguing, but acceptance feels disloyal. You try to protect yourself from sadness--you dive into your work, you surround yourself with non-mutual friends to hide, you attempt to rationalize the situation: 'hey, at least we weren't that close--it's not like I was his family member or best friend--so I should just stop being sad', you browse pictures and videos to saturate yourself in memories or maybe to make sense of what happened. After thinking, and re-thinking, and over-thinking, you marvel at the tears that silently fall despite the lack of concrete thoughts. There's nothing to reason, nothing to work out; and all that's left is pure, deep sadness.
Your perspective on life is uncomfortably transformed and you're drawn closer than ever to the people around you, but still, you want all of this to be over. Big, ceremonious events are supposed to come to a close, lasting only in your memories. The permanence of death overwhelms you. Graduations, weddings, music festivals, epic adventures--they all end. Why can't this end?
Andrew, when I walked up to you in your coffin, I still expected you to jump out at me and scare me like we kept doing to each other after that witch museum we visited. You popping out of that white wooden coffin, laughing uncontrollably, and telling me that it was all a ruse--including gathering 350+ people at your funeral and viewing-- actually felt more likely and more reasonable than you dying and being put in the ground.
Besides your family and friends who shared silly stories and celebrated your life, artists, dancers, photographers, poets, and singers came to your funeral to share their talents and their testimonies of how you had inspired them to lean into their art when you were alive. Even after your death, many continue to draw from your energy and live up to your motto: "Create to inspire. Inspire to create."
I fell off the writing scene for a bit this past year, but I owe it to you to continue creating. I think about all the beautiful pictures that will go untaken with you gone and I want to help try and fill that void with what I can. You tucked away a piece of your spirit in hundreds upon hundreds of friends, family, and fans and in that way, your vibrance carries on. I'm a better person for knowing you, Mark Andrew.
Mourn your loss and start living again.— Mark Andrew Gonzales (@mmmandrew) December 19, 2014