TO THE CLASS OF 2020 & ALL STUDENTS OF LIFE
Today, my son Gabe would have graduated high school.
Instead, he has graduated from this life.
For those of you who may not know me, on September 29, 2019, Gabe passed away - just minutes after taking a pill that he was told was an M30 oxycodone pill, but was actually a counterfeit and lethal dose of fentanyl. He was 17. (Please see the links below to more information about this dangerous drug.) I have been outspoken in the media and in my community about this form of homicide. It is one of so many pandemics - all of which are connected by the fact that they expose the diseased state of our society. Where are we at in caring for each other that this potent deadly drug is readily available for sale to our youth on the streets? This aspect I have spoken out about, but I have not shared much publicly about my personal experience of loss, and revelations that have come over the last 8 and 1/2 months since his passing. But today, on this day when we would have been celebrating his last day of high school, I felt to take a moment in celebration of Gabe's life and his essence by offering this letter to all 2020 graduates and all students of life.
Since Gabe's death, there have been some days that have been particularly in my face that he is no longer physically present with us. The indescribable sensation of his absence is magnified as holidays approach, during his birthday week, the arrival of a new Spring, and now - as his high school class is graduating.
As I move through the yearly cycle without him here embodied, I am reminded by the greeting cards in the check out aisles that he would have been finishing high school, and as I read the sentiments of these greetings cards, I note that something is off.
“Now is the time to live your dreams”
“And so the adventure begins”
“Starting off on your path to success”
and other words about achieving your “potential” and “promise.”
All these struck me as so strange, personally because they imply that Gabe never got to begin his life or have adventures or dreams or live his promise. But bigger than just one person or my personal loss, it illuminates for all of us a huge illusion we are sold - a false story of what life is about. It is a huge set-up to understand the purpose of life as a series of “box ticking" or bucket lists, such as:
_Get a college degree or other training
_Travel the world
_Meet a partner
_Buy a house
_Start a business
_Accumulate accolades and achievements
_Live to a “ripe old age”
_Etc, etc, etc.
This box ticking is what so many of us are taught is what we are supposed to do with our life - and such achievements are typically what we are rewarded and celebrated for. But I know one thing with absolute certainty - life is never ultimately about the things you do. Gabe did lots of things. He travelled internationally, he flew planes, he did well academically at school, he was a great employee and held several jobs, he loved to bike and skateboard. He did all of this, but there are many more things that he will not do. He will not go to college as planned, he will not get married, he will not have a career, he will not buy a house or have children. But this in no way makes him less. His life was absolutely rich, beautiful, and COMPLETE.
The completeness of his life has far, far less to do with what he did, as compared to who he is, and always was - his heart, his sensitivity and his compassion - present tense intentional. His love, his contagious playfulness, and his strength in brotherhood - the amazing expression of these natural qualities which he embodied - is everything.
So, class of 2020, do not fall for the box ticking set-up. Don’t get me wrong - be absolutely committed to life here on Earth. Go out in the world and get your degree or training, start a business, make music, paint, invent things, travel, fall in love with people, earn a good living, get married if you feel to, have children if you are called to, celebrate the confirmation via any award or accolade you are awarded with for wholesome work and service that you’ve done, invest in a house or business, and tend to your temporal, worldly life.
Go for it, as you have been going for it all you life thus far!
I simply offer you a gentle reminder to never forget that these things you do will never make you who you are, for who you are and your worth comes from deep within you. It has been there, far before you were born. It will not die when your body does. There is nothing to attain for you to “become” the precious, beautiful being that you already are. Bring forth the blessings of your heart and all the natural, gorgeous qualities that you are here to reflect to us - in all that you do. By living this way you will confirm equality and beauty with everyone you meet. This is how societies begin to heal. This is how your everyday will be complete, and filled with the purpose of your entire life. My sincere and heartfelt congratulations on your graduation.
With great love, Deborah
FENTANYL AWARENESS: GRADUATES, PARENTS, COMMUNITY LEADERS - - please EDUCATE yourselves about the grave dangers and prevalence of fentanyl. Beware, these counterfeit pills look identical to other, less lethal prescription medications, such as M30 oxycodone pills. Here are two links:
It is NOT ever cool to experiment with these drugs, as the first time may literally kill you. Like so many teens before him, Gabe took a reckless risk, and did not get a second chance. He was one of four high school students in Seattle that died from taking a counterfeit pill that was laced with fentanyl in that month alone. Be aware - this is yet another pandemic in our midst.