My friend Aric Kleppin is gone.
They found him on his couch at home.
Writing that did not help me believe it.
My heart is breaking for his siblings and parents.
We were Alaskan Cougs together.
We raised some hell on campus and drank terrible beer on the weekends.
He was passionate about rights for Palestinians,
anti-racism and social justice here in the United States,
traveling and making connections around the world.
His impact was global in scope and personal in nature.
Though there's no real way to limit it; he cared about everything.
Aric cooked amazing food and would share it with anyone who was around.
He really, really loved his friends and family.
Sometimes that part of him drove me nuts.
He loved being with people as much as I love being alone.
But we were friends.
This motley crew of people who cared too deeply about too many things.
We'd get drunk and shout about politics or movies with each other,
wake up and do it again over coffee the next morning.
Sometimes sports were involved, but definitely not on my end.
We would take any moment possible to sing the WSU fight song,
it didn't really matter if we were in public or not.
Fight, fight, fight for Washington State! Win the victory!
Win the day for Crimson and Gray! Best in the West, we know you'll all do your best, so
On, on, on, on! Fight to the end! Honor and Glory you must win! So
Fight, fight, fight for Washington State and victory!
W - A - SHI - N - G - TON
S - T - ATE C - O - UGS!
I've been writing in past tense.
Maybe I'm kind of believing it now.
Facebook means we never lost touch.
We'd connect through a 'like' or a comment at least every week
and it always felt like we'd meet up again someday down the road.
I'm an atheist.
I believe the kind of people we are and everything we do
is a chance to render meaning into our world
and make it better for those who come after.
Having "what if" conversations was our version of going to church.
It would start with what was bothering us recently.
Then it would grow.
Someday I'm going to have my debt paid off.
This is first on the list for a reason.
Someday I want to have kids.
I want to live in a small house on the side of a mountain
where I can't see my neighbors.
I want to know my neighbors.
Someday I want to go back for my doctorate.
For what/where/to what end I have no idea.
If there's a secular version of moving to a monastery to examine our existence while doing labor and performing acts of service, let me know.
Otherwise I'll always be keeping my eyes open for fellowships.
I want to live in a city again.
I want to spend a year in a town without roads.
I want to spend two years in a town without roads that doesn't speak English.
Someday I want to see the world.
I want to be a traveler, not a tourist.
Someday my president will be elected again.
When I was 9 I had to write a report on one of the 41 options.
I wanted to do the girl one.
I want my first girl president to be elected.
What's going on right now isn't an election. It's an auction.
The minute everyone realizes this the streets will be full.
Someday I'm going to write a book.
It might be about Black Mary,
an African-American woman who was in Petersburg in 1910.
She gets three sentences in the book of my town's history.
The one called "Little Norway: The Story of Petersburg."
The Japanese families get two paragraphs,
but at least we get their last names.
One of the paragraphs is about their internment during WWII.
So far I've read about the murder of a Native woman,
and the fact it was blamed on a Chinese man working in the processing plant,
the one found dead in his cell before trial,
though the rumor was he was a patsy for a son of Norway.
I haven't learned the names of any Native people in this book.
You know, the ones who had been living here for two thousand years.
I'm wishing I'd learned these stories before I left for WSU.
I'm wishing I could message Aric now with what I've learned about my small Alaskan town.
We were worlds apart as far as Alaskan experiences were concerned,
but the compare/contrast game somehow never got old.
Peter Buschmann chose the location of the town because you could see the mountains.
To be practical he should have started a few miles down the island
with its better access to fresh water.
But he missed his home in Norway
and wanted mountains.
Someday I'll stop taking friendships and family for granted.
I'll take the time to make the phone call, send the message, have the coffee date.
Maybe someday I'll stop being so intense.
Someday I'll be better.
Until then, I'll just do the best I can.
We were a group that cared too much about too many things.
We did a lot and it was never enough.
But there's beauty in the fact that we did it anyways.
Writing this hasn't really helped.
It still doesn't feel real.
Care too much. It's okay.
One day, maybe, I'll remember something:
We have work to do.
Caring too much doesn't mean a damn if you don't act like it, too.
Aric was an activist.
He wanted to leave this world a better place and he did.
His time here wasn't long enough, but he still managed to do it.
He did it by caring too much about too many things, and acting like it when it mattered.
Usually while laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Someday we'll be gone too.
What will we do between then and now?
How will we act when it matters?
We have work to do.
To paraphrase the badass labor organizer Mother Jones,
Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.