I always wanted to try surfing, but I never got around to it. Who'd a thought that I'd end up in a wet suit, on a surfboard, bobbing around in the Atlantic ocean in November? But there I was. When someone takes their own life, responses vary. But in the surfing community, when a surfer dies, there is a paddle out. No judgment, no evaluation, and you can't wring your hands when they're pulling you through the water toward the gathering crowd of mourners fifty yards off the beach.
And there I was. Among them. Most were strangers to me. I struggled to keep myself on top of the board. It was unfamiliar to me, as well. Loaned to me by a generous local surf shop. As was the wet suit that kept me separated from the chilling water by less than an inch. But I was warm. The sun shone brightly on the waves, as the gathering increased. Flowers were tossed, and words were said, but I couldn't hear anything over the whoosh and splash and wind.
I knew it was over when people started for shore. I can't say I was glad. As funerals go, this one was the sort you want to linger at, but I didn't want to find myself alone on the beach, not knowing where to go to return my borrowed gear. I eventually made it back to shore, and started the trek toward the crowd. The board resisted going in that direction. It and the wind had other ideas. It was heavy and awkward out of the water. Surfboards aren't of the land. They are of the sea, and they come alive at speed. I'm told he was like that. Wave and gravity join, and the plain of water holds you up. You are unified with the earth, in motion with it. It's magic.
There are some of us who are only alive when we are in motion. They taste serenity where most of us feel fear. For them, the rest of life is dull and intolerable. But the life he knew was not that way because it had to be, but because of choices we all make, or mythologies we have accepted as truth. Most of the limitations I experience are the ones I place upon myself. In his memory, I pledge to work to reinvigorate our world, and remember that culture is something we create and recreate every day. Our existence is one of infinite possibilities. Life can be fulfilling and joyous, enriching and bountiful. Not easy, but rewarding. Not safe, but satisfying. But, we have to be willing to work to see past the limitations we have been asked to accept, and step into territories that are unfamiliar. More than pledging to do this myself, I pledge to do it with you: To be a support and a partner to anyone who will take up the cause of reforming our lives, one day, one life, one moment at a time. Starting now.
I lied. I did get around to surfing once, but only briefly. Long enough to feel the rush of being one with a wave. It was fleeting and I never tried it again. Being out in the freezing cold November ocean brought me back to that moment, though. It was worth it. I hope he has found a place where the waves never end, where joy is abundant, and he is always at speed, for that is where he is alive. Together, in testament to him, I know one day we will find that place, too. And it will not be a distant place, but here and now.