When I designed last month's postcard about sadness and trying to stay useful, I had no idea a friend was going through such a difficult time. When I wrote about ways to deal with sadness, to feel useful and engaged, I did not know my friend was in rehab. A short letter came at the end of the month, and then, two days later, a small pile of book and a birthday note. They were brief, hopeful and yet still a surprise to me.
A week later he took his own life.
There are a lot of "what ifs" after a suicide. What if I had called? Did I tell him I love him in the last letter? Did he know? Did he even receive it? Unexpected deaths always carry the weight of a path severed, a plan altered. Here are the choices we make, here are the choices made for us, by others.
It is difficult to convey the weight of this loss. We had not seen each other in years but wrote frequently. The ripples of his kindness, generosity, willingness to listen, and sincerity affected many people I know all over the country. It has been comforting to see the social media outreach of people who knew him, the ever-growing circle of friends, acquaintances, pen pals, fans of his writing and music. It is too late to tell him one more time how much he meant to us, though whatever darkness he faced was clearly all engulfing. His struggle was fierce, he was full of love and sometimes that is not enough.
Reading through his letters and zines, I find references to difficulty and darkness, but always, always there is a strength, a determination to rise above. He fought a good fight and hopefully his words will continue to inspire others, encourage love and criticism as a form of love. If there must be a lesson let it be this: stay smart, alert, questioning and open, friends. Please don't stuff down the sadness, it is all a part of this. Bring it into the light. Love love love.
Travis Fristoe died August 7, 2015. There have been more than a few writings about how he affected those around him, and I especially appreciate this from Nate Powell. He is survived by a baby daughter, Astrid, his wife Avery and his stepdaughter. A fund was started to help this family, including baby Astrid, through this time and beyond. Contribute if you like at http://www.gofundme.com/4vrg8jw4 .
I doubt this will be the last I write of this. Maybe next time, there will be more stories. Like that time I was his houseguest for maybe too many weeks. I was homeless, traveling, dealing with a difficult break-up. I didn't sleep at night. More than one night I climbed the tree in front of his house as the sun came up, listening to tapes on a walkman, until his neighbors came out and left for work, kindly ignoring the girl in the tree. Travis never said I was a bad houseguest and let me visit a bunch more times after that. Rest in peace and power.