“Pain… it demands to be felt.” - John Green
It’s been a little over a week since you passed. I’m in a better place now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still deeply miss you and that it doesn’t deeply hurt me.
It comes and goes in waves. Some days I am good. Some days I am bad. Some days I can barely bring myself to go into work. Some days I want to cry and can’t. I don’t know what is holding me back.
I miss you lot. Your absence is something I’ve had to just accept now, as hard as it is.
I don’t feel as alone as I did. People finally began to text me and talk to me. I received a call at the beginning of the week that put me on a high the whole day. And then another one yesterday. We talked about you. We talked about how sad we are, how great of a person you were. How much it hurts. How much life sucks and you have to just move on. That call meant the world to me. I feel less alone, but still a bit alone. I need a long hug from someone who actually knew you. A shoulder to cry on from someone I trust, someone who won’t judge me and will let me grieve how I need to and won’t tell me how I should feel or that I need to give everyone the benefit of a doubt. And for the record, I hate hugs. If I ask for one, it’s a dang national emergency. If I hear one more person say, “We’re fine over here, don’t worry about us, we’ve got each other,” I might scream. I’m not around anymore so the majority of people just forget I existed or that our friendship existed. That’s selfish of me, I know.
They are having a ceremony on Sunday for you. It will be beautiful: they are braiding the kelp we studied and placing flowers and little notes into it and then sending it out to sea on the beach where you and I learned how to dive in the ocean. It will be so lovely. I wish I could be there. They will place music for you. They will talk about how wonderful you were. How much we will miss you. I am sad I won’t be there. It tears me apart. It hurts so much, I just keep imagining it and I want so badly to be there for everyone and with everyone.
The idea is truly beautiful, but something still deeply upsets me. People cannot wrap their minds around the fact that you were more than just one thing. They just see you as a diver in our lab. They see you for the work you did. You were so much more than that, far more than that lab could ever make you out to be or could ever give you. I don’t want you to be remembered for that. I don’t want to people to think of you as “a good diver” full stop. You were so profoundly more than that. I resent that you never had the opportunity to get out of there and experience something outside of that place. Heck, you even told me after that lab, you didn’t think you would do much diving. “Not even for fun?” “Probably not. After this, I’ll probably be done with diving.” I think it grew more important to you towards the end and you started to enjoy it a little more (especially in Rapa Nui and after you got that Holis BCD), but you really didn’t love it as much as people make you out to. You probably wouldn’t be that brokenhearted about it, but it still hurts me to think that people want to close you off into a little box and make you into something that fits their narrative of you. I don’t want you to fit my narrative of you. I want you to fit your own.
The thing is that we can never truly know someone. We can get very close, but everyone is going to know a different side of you. If we all come together, we can piece you back together bit by bit, but we will never fully have you. That is why we will miss you so deeply. You will never truly be present with us again, not like you were when you were physically here.
I wish your efforts were more appreciated while you were still alive. I can’t help but be angry at some people for not valuing you. That’s just part of the process of grieving. I am so upset that you will never see the publication of our book. I’m sad about our paper, too, but that was in our hands, we were working on it. The book was out of our hands. I promise, I am getting that book out there with a dedication to you.
I told a friend that sometimes I have a hard time leaving the house. I’m scared that what happened to you will happen to me. Or that it will happen to someone else. “Life is fragile,” he said in response. It is. I just didn’t realize how fragile.
I wish I could cry. I did a little the other day. But I feel like I need to cry more. I feel like I need to cry for a solid hour and then some. It just won’t come out of me. When I left Chile, I sobbed for two hours in the airport. Once I stepped foot on that plane, I didn’t cry until three months later when I saw a video of a place I loved in Rapa Nui. It’s not that I don’t deeply miss Chile or you all or the sea or doing something I loved. It’s that I just physically can’t cry anymore. I’ve never wanted to cry more, and now I can’t and I feel horrible about it.
I feel like a crap person for how I’m grieving. I know that I can’t feel like that, you grieve how you are going to grieve. Some ugly feelings may come out and that’s ok, that’s normal. You just have to get past them and get them out to someone who gets it. Who won’t judge you or tell you how your supposed to feel. You aren’t supposed to feel any specific way when grieving, every feeling is fair game, every person is different, and every loss is different.
I miss you.
I started watching the new season of Stranger Things. You liked the show and would have watched it, and we would have talked about it. It wasn’t your favorite, but still, I thought of you. Not sure what you would have thought of it, I’m not even sure what I think of it. It’s… a bit too gross for my liking. But I still like the characters and the story line. You probably would have liked the special effects, you always said you enjoyed special effects in movies and tv.
The thing about life is that it is so unpredictable. Sometimes it pulls you up so high you think you’ll never come down. You’re so happy it radiates from you. Sometimes life pulls the rug out from under you and delivers the strongest blows and pushes you into the depths. Sometimes, you just feel a bit neutral. Life will always throw you curve balls, but you have to just keep living. You have to keep moving and hoping for greater things and reaching out to them. Life moves on even if you don’t. I will never “move on” from missing you. I will always miss you. But I will continue my life, just like you would have wanted. The world is sadder without you in it, but life can still have meaning. You were important and that doesn’t make you any less important, but I can’t stop seeking to help make the world better because I lost you. You would never want that.
You have to love the people that you love while they are still around. You have to take their photo, take a video of them, tell them they are important. Don’t just assume that they know because 90% of the time, they don’t. It’s up to you to let them know. It’s up to you to be kind and caring to people, to change our world by a few small acts of kindness. Text people to let them know you care about them. Call them sometimes, send them a photo that made you think of them, ANYTHING. Anything to let them know that someone on this dying rock remembers them enough to think of them sometimes. Don’t lose people while you still have them.
Life happens. Tragedies happen. You keep on living. You keep on living because you must. Because the world needs you in it. Because you are important.
The world is poorer without you, Joon. But I will make sure the world never forgets you, and I’ll try to keep moving forward with my life just like you taught me to. Even beyond the grave, you are teaching me. I love you for that.