Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hearts on Valentine's Day

I've been getting huge traffic on this site from people searching Owen's name. Normally this is a sleepy little corner of the internet and this came as a surprise to me.

There's a few things I should mention, for the sake of my conscience if nothing else.

First, I didn't really know Owen. The first time I met him I could tell that he had no interest in talking to me. "Right." I thought, "Fair enough." and left him alone. I'd say 'Hi' when the LUC and I went to dinner at the Richel/Hunt household and "Bye" if he was still awake when we left and that was the total of our interaction. The LUC made more of an effort and was usually rebuffed. Owen wasn't shy about making his wishes known. During his hospital stay we visited a number of times. Nothing had changed, he still didn't want anything to do with me.

I respect that. Hell, I admire it. If I, as a 40 year old adult, could get away with being as blunt and straight forward as Owen was in dealing with the world I'd be very happy indeed. And yet I found myself getting angry during the memorial because of this. Angry at myself for not making more of an effort to know him. Judging by the moving accounts told by those who knew him well, Owen and I shared a very similar world view. Angry also that there was no one to blame for this tragedy. I found myself wishing I believed in a god, any god, so I could curse him as a cruel, capricious bastard. I also felt anger for not doing more to help Daryl and Charlotte, and deep down I felt a little presumptuous because of these feelings.

The memorial was perfect. I was moved by the eloquence and sincerity of the speakers, moved by their love for the little boy who I hardly knew. I cried for a time. I confronted my shortcomings as friend and my shortcomings as an adult and was angry for a time. I even forgave myself, just a little and not without misgivings, for those shortcomings.

I learned things. It is better to care too much, even inappropriately, and forgive oneself for it than it is to have a stony heart and never know that one needs forgiveness. It is better to share tragedy. Just as many hands make for lighter labour, so too do many souls lessen the burden of grief. And most importantly, it is far better to have loved and laughed, been loved and been laughed at, even been scared and cried, for so short a time as six years than it is to have never lived at all. (Believe me, if I could go back and pound that lesson into the head of my angsty teenage self I'd do it.)

Over a decade ago I attended the funeral of Darren Howey, a young man who's life also ended far too soon. I made a promise to his father that I would never forget Darren. I've kept that promise. Darren now has the company of a strong-headed, fearless little boy and I sure hope they get along, because they will be in my heart together till the end of my days.

To all of you who knew Owen best and feel his passing deeply, you have my most sincere condolences.

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