What happened four weeks ago was tragic. There is a vacuum in the world.
The loss of a young and vibrant life is never easy, is impossible to make sense of, and is wholly disturbing. No one knows how long we will feel the repercussions of Charlie’s passing.
We spent the days struggling to comprehend the hows, the whys, the what ifs and in the end, we simply came to accept the unpleasant and terribly uncomfortable fact; Charlie is gone and nothing can bring him back. Sam our program manager was the first to pronounce, through teary eyes, “None of what happened and why it happens matters already. He is gone.” We simply have to move forward.
We teach our kids that life is like surfing, waves come and go. Turbulent waters happen, as do calm days and perfectly glassy waves. Life goes on. Water keeps moving. And in life, most of us survive the wipe outs, and on unfortunate occasions, some surfers never come up for that almighty HA, breath of life. We imagine they went out with a stoke, riding on the high of an awesome wave before taking their last dive. We admire their passion, verve, guts and the sheer audacity of paddling before that fateful monster in the first place. We imagine they departed with heart pounding joy. Whether it is true or not doesn’t matter already, they are gone.
We are all going to “go” one day. It’s an undeniable fact. Yet we all wonder at the process. And we all contemplate what does it all mean? What’s the purpose?
The simplest answer I have is “to surf”. To live life in communion with nature, enjoy our time in the lineup with friends, to know we choose our challenges and accept the outcomes, whatever they may be. To paddle hard for big waves and exciting rides, to duck dive under curtains of water crashing overhead, to sit and enjoy the view between sets, to paddle back in when you are satiated, had enough or need to rest. To simply be IN the world, IN yourself, feeding your spirit and honoring the space you occupy on this earth. To live in ALOHA, exchanging breath with other beings and our ‘aina. Together we breathe and feed our plants, while they in turn respire and feed us. We all have a place in the world. The cycles of life keep turning, taking us along with it. We keep moving forward.
We are still here. We have more waves to catch, days to cruise, mornings to rise at dawn to meet the day’s first set.
We still have many young lives to nurture, guide, encourage and praise. We still have hundreds of “Charlies” who need support and whose lives can be saved, and who need to know they can make better choices. We cannot change Charlie’s choice, unfortunate and permanent as it is. (Oh how I wish we could) he is a reminder for us of how tender, raw and pained our kids are. They hide it well. Covered beneath layers of bravado, or in Charlie’s case, thoughtful quiet reserve.
All we can do is move forward and look around at what remains. Youth who have told us their lives are changed. Youth who may have made the same tragic choice as Charlie, but given options of surfing and community have changed their minds. One youth said to me “I attempted suicide before, but now I feel like I have so much to live for. And there are so many people who are here for me. I’m glad I never did it. I never knew my life would get better like this. I wish he would have believed that this good stuff would last.”
Yes the “good stuff” can last — if you can learn to roll with the waves and remember that even the best waves have to break. Savor the good. Lock up the stoke of the good rides deep in your heart and in every cell of your being. Then let the memory and good vibes of that stoked propel you through the challenging currents of hard times. If there was a good wave once, there will, eventually, be another. Remember that no one ever caught a great wave without paddling through rough water. Learn from the wipe outs and do the best you can. Live. Just live.
While we can’t bring Charlie back, we can learn from him. Wipe away the tears, climb back on our boards, and move forward. As long as there are waves to ride, and people to celebrate them with we will paddle back out and try again…
Yes, we will keep moving forward.