I almost never post to my blog anymore (should fix that) Aa lot of what I say I put over on VoxPopcast), but I do pretty frequently say shorter things on Twitter or Facebook. Today, I wrote this on Facebook… a eulogy for a friend. I decided that it was something I wanted to have a copy of here.
I’d like to tell you about my friend Aspen. This morning, my wife woke me up, clearly very sad and distraught, asking me to look at a Facebook post. The post was on Aspen’s wall, from a friend of hers I’ve never met, informing the world that she’d passed away a couple days ago. Details of the post were slight, but reading between the lines.. and mixed with things I know… It’s especially sad. But that’s not what I want to dwell on.
I won’t pretend we were “best friends” but we were definitely good friends. At least to me. Loving pen pals! Just looking at the people posting comments and condolences, I don’t know the vast majority of them. She was someone who modeled for me years ago, but we’ve always kept in touch. She struck up a friendship with both me and Stephanie and I can honestly say that Aspen was one of the kindest, sweetest, most adorable, most genuinely delightful people I’ve ever met.
I don’t know her mother or her sister, but I do know Aspen spoke of them QUITE frequently and loved them very much. So on the off chance that either of them ever see this… or really, anyone else whose life Aspen has ever touched (which, is actually probably way more than anyone knows as I’m about to detail)… I want to share a few thoughts about Aspen in the hopes that my words bring whatever solace to whoever reads them that they can.
The first is about my podcast… and the #BLM movement, which… I guess is now forevermore immortalized in Aspen’s FB profile avatar. The morning after George Floyd was murdered on national TV, Aspen texted me to talk. It was a … I guess weird… conversation in a way, but also completely natural in its own way. She was distraught, and angry, and sad… just like a lot of the rest of us. But she wanted to ask me if she had any right to be. I asked her what she meant. She explained the obvious. She found everything disturbing and awful… she was angry and upset… but she was white and she wanted to know how I was feeling as a black person.
She was concerned for me. It was very clearly from a place of love. Not from obligation. It wasn’t performative. I wasn’t her only black friend. She wasn’t getting advice from a meme to “check in on black people”. She had just been watching something horrific… and I was a person she felt like she could have an honest conversation about her feeelings with. She honestly wasn’t sure if she was even allowed to show concern as a white person because she (in her words) “didn’t want to take away from the hurt that black people had to be feeling”. And what she wanted most of all was to help. And then she felt like she might even be patronizing by showing concern. We had a very honest conversation about this that went on for like… three days.
So… there’s an episode of VoxPopcast… in fact, I think still one of the most popular shows we’ve ever done, which is just me and several other black friends of mine talking about the George Floyd murder and the aftermath. That was Aspen’s idea. She wanted to hear me talk about it. I thank her at the beginning (calling her Amanda, her name at the time) for giving me the idea. This delighted her… she didn’t even want credit. She thought it was silly to think of her. She just was happy to hear honest opinions from people on what happened. It was important to her. I value that integrity and honesty and genuineness. And, based on the feedback that I got from that episode… her idea… it meant a lot to a lot of other people. I told her that. She was proud of it… or happy about it… her feeling was that she didn’t do much. I disagree. She mattered here a lot. I will never forget it.
Second memory: Three years ago, her purse was stolen. Her response was to post a Facebook message the next morning wishing the anonymous person who robbed her the best of luck, saying “I hope the food and gas from the gas station bought with my card last night fed you and took you where you needed to go. I also hope that things turn around for you in life. I’m sure you’re just in a bad spot and need some help.” It almost sounds sarcastic; if you didn’t know Aspen you’d think it was. If you did know her, you’d know it was the absolute most sincere thing ever. The only thing she was sad about was that that purse contained a necklace given to her by her deceased fiancé. To Aspen, the biggest tragedy was that some poor person “had to rob her”
Final memory: The last real conversation we had (other than brief FB comments or happy birthdays). A few months ago, after Aspen wrote a post publicly coming out as: genderqueer, polyamorous, and pansexual… and ummm… as Aspen (instead of Amanda, her given name), I wrote her a private message to congratulate her. We’d talked about sexuality a bunch over the years, so I actually already knew all of those things. I think a lot of people in her life did… I don’t feel like she was ever trying to hide anything. But Aspen felt like taking the definitive step was important. I think more for other people than for herself. For normalization. She felt it was important because, in her words: “I’m a raging, feminist, poly, pan, nonbinary, spiritual atheist who’s sorry she showed up to the game a little late.” She wanted to help others.
In particular I asked about the pronouns she’d chosen: specifically she/he/they. I actually went back and forth on what I should use on this post. I decided to go with feminine because of what she said. I once asked if she had a preference. What should I use… Her answer was a predictable “oh no… I sometimes feel totally like ultrafemme or some days I feel more masculine or somedays neither and it changes so much. I’m genderqueer! I embrace the entire spectrum of pronouns. Just do whatever is easiest!” And that was that. Mostly, she told me, that she was just happy that there was so much love and support from people on what she said was a little scary and a very vulnerable day. She was glad she did it. She thought it was important to just be her.
And it was… Aspen was important. I wish she knew how important she was to other people. She was important to me. She was important to my wife. She was clearly important to so many people who knew and loved her… and from the three examples that I just shared, I wish she understood how important she was to people who had never met her.
So… to her mother and sister, and again, anyone else who loved her/him/them as Aspen or Amanda (or Mandie… which is what I actually mostly called her): My most sincere condolences to the loss of one the brightest lights in the world.
And to Mandie, I love you and miss you. I already miss talking to you… I miss your quirkly flirtiness… I miss your goofy tiktok videos… I miss your deep and sincere desire to help everyone that you’ve ever (and never) met… I miss your periodic checking in on me to make sure I was having a good day… I miss your writing me randomly to ask a question about race or to discuss gender or sexuality… I will miss you texting me to point me at some random asshole you want me to roast for being sexist or racist online…. and I miss you writing me out of the blue to say “hey, what comic books should I be reading?” I will miss not waking up to a private text next year that says “Happy motha fuckin birthday!!!”. And I will miss the wonderful person who had the courage to write me on a horrible day and say “I don’t know how to feel”.
You’re gone… today is a horrible day and I don’t know how to feel. But I know I miss you.