Granted this is something I wrote three years ago, the sentiments and the thoughts still resonate deeply today. With Thanksgiving arriving this week, it is a time when I reflect even deeper upon who and what I am Grateful for. I am Grateful for having had a friendship with Chris. He taught me a lot in such a short time… And I truly believe had it not been for him, I doubt I would have had the chance to befriend his dear and talented wife, Melanie Manson, who I believe is yet another gift he bestowed upon me.
Furthermore, I would not have continued to embark on my journey the way that I have – his death encouraged me to take more risks and say yes to more opportunities Life has put in my path.
Oh Chris, Ah man, I am sorry we didn’t get to connect on Saturday before you...left. I will always think about the day we could have had that conversation, the day we could have had that rendezvous.
Our conversations ranged from provocative and shocking to dark and sordid - sometimes cynical and shameless.
We were not down with the popular agenda. And that was fun to talk about. But I only shook my head with a cheeky smile at your snide and disruptive interjections during announcements and speeches at different gatherings.
You didn't hold back. Zero fucks given.
You lived a Life most marveled at. But a thread throughout it, from what I saw, was strung with such abysmal pain. And it is something that very few - that only "we" - or, at least I, can say with confidence, I - understood. The feeling was deep, raw, real, beyond mutual.
I felt every shred of emotion and description of the profundity of physical pain, the uncontrollable crazy-making experience of constant infections. The wanting, the seductive desire of just laying down having had enough and just wanting to be at peace.
I struggle so much in the writing - in the difficulty of expressing - my thoughts over the last several weeks. This is about you, of course - but, in a very profound and real way, it is also about me.
To question existence, to question one's own life, one's own purpose, is unto itself the very innate question of every human being, I sometimes think. But maybe that's just a bullshit, moot, irrelevant thought. You know, statements we may roll our eyes at...much like clichés we spit through clenched teeth.
In June 2013 I wore a dress for the first time in nearly 10 years. I was pressured into it. I felt very nervous and unconfident. Despite the anxiety, I made it to the gym for our evening Transcendental Meditation session. The minute you saw me, you didn't even say hello. You looked me up and down and with this wry smile said, "Dude, ditch the jeans - I dig this." In that super-laid back-cool cat-SoCal-Valley-boy voice. You know how that made me feel.
I always got a kick out of you.
I wish I hadn’t lagged on scheduling (for over a year) a photo shoot with you. I think back to multiple conversations about concepts, style, ideas, photos that I admired by Testoni and Demarchelier and you. You wanted to shoot me in a pool of water - it freaked me out! (I definitely wasn't as fearless then as I am now.)
That moment, that experience will never be. It makes me sad but I understand that everything that happens is in alignment with what is to be; things happen as they should. And in accepting that one finds much more peace...(People say I'm supposed to get over it: but I won't "get over" you.)
Admittedly, I have not been able to come to terms. I've been judgmental, sad, hot-tempered, and uneasy, and even just popping in on Facebook once in a while and seeing posts about you has irritated me.
But now I'm getting it out. I am saying my piece/peace. I have to and I want to share it.
In the very few conversations I've had about your death, people have brought up Robin Williams. In terms of suicide and depression, of course, not comical talent. *wink* I can very easily connect with that because of my decades of battling depression and suicidal ideations. I must admit that most of these conversations have pissed me off more than they've provided insight or comfort only because I find that people are far more interested in the conversation that explores the macabre details as opposed to the life of the person. You. Christopher Voelker.
Truth is, I do not know your whole story. What I DO know now, and must recognize, is that your choice to end your life has created an opportunity - a chance to have frank, real talk, with the people I have connected with in my life thus far. Particularly, perhaps most importantly, the community both you and I were "destined" to join: those afflicted with Spinal Cord Injury.
It is time a proper discussion happens, takes place in a space we all can fill. There are far too many of us dying. Quite often, whilst scrolling through my contacts on both my phone and Facebook, I pause as I scroll over the name of yet another dead friend. And, I don't delete these contacts. It does not seem right to me. You may think that I'm keeping the memory alive but I believe it to be a chance to remember, reminisce and render them peace.
You are missed. You are loved. And you, Darling, YOU are unforgettable.
Photo: Alan Sahakangus
RIP Christopher Voelker and Smeagol