Tag Archives: eulogy

In Memoriam: Anastacia Campbell

We lay in the giant bed on our backs, our heads touching, bodies extending out like a large letter A. Our epic Christmas Day adventure inside the abandoned Six Flags in New Orleans had just ended, and we celebrated with too many drinks at the hotel bar. Our love was never anything other than platonic, and it never felt more tangible than it did in that instant. “Thank you for this, Stace. I am never going to forget this.”

Her hand actually left her phone for a second and she gripped my wrist tightly. “Thank you a thousand times over. You don’t know what you saved me from, but just know that I couldn’t be happier than I am right here, right now, and right with you.”

Stacy Campbell and Adam Avitable in New Orleans

Anastacia Lyn Campbell was a dynamic, funny, dark, twisted, brilliant, beautiful soul. Her loss was devastating. I didn’t just lose a friend I originally met on the Internet. She was Jurgen Nation, and Indie Ink, and Cry Laff posts, and Coke Kitty, and Stacy Effing Campbell. She was bigger than life. She was too big for life.

When her family asked me to preside over the funeral service, I was deeply honored and completely terrified. Already feeling the shadow of guilt that I had let her down in some way, I didn’t want this to be a further failure on my part. But I knew I had to do it. For her, for me, for all of us who loved her.

The service was standing room only, filled with mourning family, friends and coworkers, but there was an entire world of people who couldn’t attend. Her family from MamaPop, people whose lives she’d touched, andfriends and strangers alike who felt the same loss we did. I tried my best to include them by setting up my phone to stream the service live on Periscope, which I’ve now embedded here for you. (Since the video was just a video of the ceiling above my podium, I used the audio with a photo slideshow so you don’t have to just stare at the top of my head the whole time.)

Stacy’s death brought me in contact with the other important friends in her life, and it’s bittersweet to have made friends with such amazing people in the wake of such a shattering event. My friendships with Stephanie, Krystyna, and Tom are going to last a lifetime. Not just because Stacy was the tie that binds us, but because her varied and hidden friendships were all puzzle pieces for the same puzzle. We all fit.

I loved Detroit and hated why I was there. I met amazing people, saw a beautiful city, and experienced a few moments of what it was like to be Stacy. I saw the generosity and love of the world when I was in Detroit, and it was overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and humbling. Sometimes, it’s easy to think that everyone is selfish, petty, materialistic, and hateful, but then you see the reactions of most people during a tragedy, and it helps you realize that generally, humanity is pretty fucking amazing.

Thank you to Grant for your help. Thank you to Chrissie and Pat for your amazing hospitality and opening up your home to me as if I was your son. Thank you to Gail and Terry and Jamie and Eric for allowing me to be a part of Stacy’s family without hesitation. Thank you to Racheal for showing amazing strength and character at such a young age. Thank you to my friends for all of the love and support they showed – I got literally hundreds of messages and don’t want to leave anyone out, but you all know who you are. Thank you to Amy for answering the phone even if you thought it might be a butt dial. And thank you to the SFC for making my last night in Detroit a beautiful one.

Detroit as the sun sets

Stacy Effing Campbell's Sick Fucks Club

Stephanie Hume at Belle Isle Park

Adam Avitable and Krystyna Silvi

Anastacia's Sick Fucks Club aka The Big Chill 2015 aka why won't anyone dance with us aka where's the fucking booze? #ripcokekitteh #anastaciacampbell #stacycampbell #effcamms #noweddingsandafuneral

Jameson shots for Stacy Effing Campbell

Finally, if you’ve read this far and you’re interested, I’ve pasted the original version of eulogy I wrote, which varied slightly when it was live:

Stacy would have hated this.

Traditions, rituals, events borne out times past for no reason but the sake of doing something – she didn’t believe in that.

But this isn’t for her. This is for us. This is to remember and cherish the moments we had with someone who burned so brightly that she touched hundreds, if not thousands of people with her spirit.

A eulogy is supposed to be a recap of sorts. A summary of the life of the one we’ve lost. But not this one. Stacy was, is and will always be so much more than facts and dates and jobs and places.

Stacy was a sunrise shining through the leaves, painting the world with a yellow hue.
She was a hidden smile passed between secret lovers sitting across a room.
She was a world teeming with life, living microscopically on the tip of a blade of grass.

There isn’t a person here who doesn’t have a piece of themselves missing right now. Stacy did more than enter our lives. She joined with us in such a way that she became a part of who we were, forever. That hole in our hearts that burns and twists inside us right now may heal with time, but right now it hurts more than anything we can imagine.

Stacy never cared about where we lived, what we did for a living, what mundanities made up our lives. She wanted more. Who are you? What makes you jump for joy? What scares you in the inky blackness of night? What song sends your heart pounding and your adrenaline firing? Why are you who you are?

I never had small talk with Stacy. Like her, my conversations were all bigger than life itself. We made big plans, went on life-changing adventures, and bonded in a way that was special and singular and us, and then she did that with everyone. That’s who she was.

If everyone in the world was going right, Stacy would go left. “Do Not Enter” meant “Don’t Get Caught”. For her, it was all about the experience. Her pain and her darkness were kept at bay when she was harnessing the world, soaking in life, absorbing the beauty surrounding her. She regularly withdrew into herself but always emerged, recharged and burning with her dreams.

Most, if not all, of us knew about Stacy’s bucket list. I saw it like a movie – maybe the greatest movie ever made. Adventure after adventure, elaborate set piece after set piece, and a fantastic soundtrack, and once the movie ended, it would all be over. She made no secret about her desire not to make any more movies once this one was done.

But I thought I had more time before the credits came. I should have known. Of course. I should have known that Stacy would choose to walk out in the middle of the movie. Because that was her way.

I loved Anastacia. I loved her like a soulmate, like a sister, like a friend, like I love myself on those good days. We talked about hunting ghosts in the fall, packing our lives up and moving to Australia when we were 40, exploring the catacombs in France, and a thousand other adventures on the horizon. She wasn’t just a person, or a friend, or someone I loved. She was a spectre of fantasy, the spirit of excitement, and the embodiment of living life as if each day will truly be your last.

I know that I said this was for us, not for her. But now I want to talk to Stacy directly, and I think I’ll be saying something that will resonate with many of us:

Stacy, I was overwhelmed with rage when I heard the news. I’ve never been angrier at anyone as I was at you on Wednesday night. You are so loved and appreciated by so many people, and I wonder if you only knew, would that have changed things? If you could read all the amazing words written by the people who you inspired, could that have kept the darkness from winning?

Of course not. You’re Anastacia Effing Campbell.

You were in control. You walk where paths have not existed, you drift through dreams ethereally, and you will live on inside each of us forever.

The one thing that you lacked – the hole that could not be filled – was peace. You moved constantly upwards and onwards to quell that missing aspect of your soul. And now, after all of these years, after all the pain, I hope that you are truly, finally at peace.

We love you, Stacy Campbell. You are important, and we will celebrate you in ways that you would be proud. We will take the roads untraveled, climb the barricades in our way, observe and truly notice the beauty that surrounds us, and appreciate the gifts we have. We will live in ways that scare us and push us and challenge us, and we will do it for you.

And finally, if you’ve read this far, I’ll share one last image. One that, above all else, represents Stacy. She was dark and twisted and evil and hilarious and amazing and wonderful, all bundled into one stunningly beautiful package, and her sense of humor had a morbidity and a darkness that rivaled my own. That’s why I know I can post this here and say with complete certainty that not only would she have loved this and laughed until she peed, she would have expected nothing less from me or anyone who loved her and knew her as well as her closest friends did:

Irony and Stacy Campbell

I love you, Stacy. Even in death, you provided me with an adventure and new people to love. You will always be missed.

The life of Aaron Dale Jones, October 8, 1984 – December 7, 2012

Aaron Jones, died December 7, 2012
Aaron Jones, 10/8/84-12/7/12

When you encounter people like Aaron Jones, it’s easy to take them for granted. When we should be treasuring the genuine, the caring, the compassionate, the wholeheartedly fantastically nice and pleasant, we see them as a constant. We need them in our lives, so we don’t always appreciate those amazing people to the extent that we should. Why wouldn’t Aaron be there every Monday night, my favorite drink in hand, as soon as I walk in the door of The Other Bar? How could he possibly be anywhere else other than acting as the best audience member a comedian could ever want? Who, if not Aaron, would always have a smile and a nod and a genuine interest in your life?

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve only lost a few friends, and only a few family members. Aaron’s death has been simultaneously more and less than other losses. He wasn’t my friend, because he was more than that – Aaron was the force of nature, the fixture, the familiar face in the crowd. He was the pal, the buddy, the guy you knew you could always approach and talk to. I didn’t even have his phone number, but I didn’t need it. I knew where I would always find him. Defining him is difficult. Aaron simply … was.

And now he’s not. He’s been taken from the world from the reckless action of an unknown hit and run driver. His family and friends gathered last night at The Other Bar in a celebration of his life that was unlike any outpouring of love I’ve ever seen. Aaron Jones was easy to take for granted. We all knew that he’d be there forever – the same old Aaron, smiling, chuckling, rocking out, making drinks, and being Aaron. We knew it. We knew he’d never go anywhere.

He touched many lives over those 28 years, some briefly, some so extensively that the healing will take years. There won’t be any more new moments to treasure, but there are always chances in life to share the past. To cock your head, put a wry smile on your face, and know that the world would be a more beautiful place if we could all be just a little bit more like Aaron Jones.

In Celebration of Aaron Jones

Continue reading The life of Aaron Dale Jones, October 8, 1984 – December 7, 2012

My thoughts on death; also, RIP Scott Campbell

A man I knew died yesterday. I can’t say that I liked him very much, or even that I knew him at all. Scott Campbell was a biology teacher at my high school and I never gave him much thought or consideration over the years since I graduated. It wasn’t that I harbored any ill will. I just didn’t even think of him.

A recent connection through Facebook brought me up to speed with his life. While he was alone in most of his photos, he was always smiling, that awkward, dorky smile that I remember. He had moved to Denver where he taught and lived his life as a single man. He traveled the world. He loved his sister, Donna. And he had a brain tumor.

On July 19th, he underwent brain surgery. I’ve taken the liberty of copying and pasting some of his Facebook wall posts verbatim because I think they demonstrate his optimism in the face of abject despair.

July 24: “covld use a visitor”
July 30: “3-5 weeks in rehab”
August 2: “i need visits”
August 3: “Rehab isway hard”
August 5: “Wishiknew when iwil be able to go home”
August 7: “Has no ijdea whereimgoing after i leaverehaab”
August 15: “Recovery is tough enouggW/o the Addedfinancial stress”
August 20: “Looks like im goinginto a a skilled nursing facility next wk”
August 23: “100dgree fever!”
September 9: “Stillinthe hnoshosbut hopetogetOusoon”
September 10: “STANDUPTOCBNCER!”
September 14: “KMovingtoa newnursing/rehabhome”

On November 4th, his sister posted under his account: “I am reading all your letters to him . . . He can no longer speak but acknowledges our presence . . .”

And on Sunday, he died. I haven’t been able to get his death out of my head all day. Our paths barely crossed, our interactions 20 years ago were minor at best, and his departure from this world will have no direct or indirect effect on anything that happens for the rest of my life, but his passing fills me with no small measure of sadness.

The reason, I think, that Scott’s death has affected me so much is because it seemed so goddamn lonely. This is supposition and extrapolation on my part, of course, but in this giant theater of the Internet, our perceptions fuel our motivations, our fears, and our dreams. I won’t make apologies for imagining a world of stark loneliness, no partner with whom he shared his life, no progeny on whom he doted, and only a sister, sparing him moments of her existing life. I envision a man, wasting away in a bed, knowing that his time may be limited, bathed in the sickly glow of a laptop monitor as his support system is represented by ones and zeroes, completely and utterly alone.

I wish I could be positive and hopeful and just say that Scott, you will be mourned by those who love you, you will be missed by those whose lives you touched, and you will be remembered by those who knew you. I wish that I could just simply hope that your last moments were filled with love and happiness and warmth, but the dark part of my soul insists that they weren’t. It whispers to me that your last moments were filled with unyielding loneliness. And that terrifies me. For you. For everyone. For myself.

Ode to my grandfather

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook likely saw the news that I posted about my grandfather dying early Tuesday morning. He had been suffering for a long time now, and his physician had been predicting that he “wouldn’t last the week” for almost two years – almost since the day my grandmother died. Those of you who sent me condolence emails or messages through Twitter or Facebook, thank you very much.

I moved away from Boston when I was three, and can count on one hand the number of times I saw my dad’s parents after that. They came down and visited twice and we went up to visit them three times. I wasn’t particularly close to either of them, although my grandfather and I communicated during college quite a bit. Even though he only had a sixth-grade education, he would write me letters and send money every few months. I would always reply with my own letters, and we communicated like that during my entire college career. It was a very sweet gesture, albeit an occasionally indecipherable one, and I took every chance I had to tell him how much it meant to me that he would send those letters.

Until the last several years, my grandfather was in amazing health. Before a hospital visit in 2001, the last time he was in the hospital was in the Korean War when a jeep he was driving exploded. He walked away without a scratch but they insisted on taking him the hospital anyways. He was probably the toughest person I’ve ever met, and it was always difficult to see him in a weakened condition. The last time I saw him, he was staying in a hospital room with my grandmother and was raring to get home. He also handed me the last letter he’d ever write me and asked me not to open it until after he had died. I searched through my file cabinet on Tuesday and finally found it, a normal-looking 8X10 envelope with “Adam Heath Avitable” scrawled, barely legible, on the front. I smiled at the fact that he uses my full name just like I do, and began to read:

Dear Adam,

If you are reading this, then I have finally passed on, hopefully to a better place. Or so it would seem. However, it is likelier that I will crawl from the ground a hungry brain-eating monster, shambling from victim to victim in my never-ending quest for a meal. You were my first grandson, so I am entrusting you with this letter in order to avoid a zombie plague like the famous Undead Attack of ’66.

Here are directions to my pre-purchased grave site. I need you to fly to Boston and come to the grave, where I have hidden a shovel. Take the shovel and dig up my coffin. When you open the coffin, be very careful to keep your hands and fingers away from my mouth, as zombies can be quicker than they look. I need you to separate my head from my neck, put my head in a box or bag, and then bury it in a separate location.

Two years ago, when your grandmother died, I had to go through this same process and she almost got me. In fact, she managed to turn two groundskeepers into the undead before I could stop her rampage. Zombies are serious business, and you cannot take this responsibility lightly!

I cannot ask your father to do this, as I know it would be too difficult, so the burden rests on your shoulders alone. Tell no one of this letter, as we do not want to cause a panic in the streets about future zombie attacks.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Love,
Jerry Avitable*

So, I’m off to Boston. Wish me luck?


***
In other Avita-news, tonight we’re having a Britt-free installment of “Clearly, You’re Retarded!” Stepping into Britt’s highly capable fashionable shoes is the intelligent, although not quite as smart as me, Faiqa!

The show starts tonight, Wednesday, at 9 PM EST, and our topic is about destroying children’s dreams. More specifically, should parents encourage and support a belief in fictional characters like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy? Is lying to your children okay in this situation?

If you’re going to listen, I strongly suggest that you download the TalkShoe Pro software – it’s free and much more stable than the web interface. Listen live online here: Clearly, You’re Retarded

clearlyretarded_faiqa

*This letter may or may not be fabricated and I am not actually going to Boston to do any such thing.

RIP Bea Arthur

As you probably know, Bea Arthur died yesterday at the age of 86.

Most people remember her the best for her Emmy award-winning role in “Golden Girls,” where her acerbic sense of humor shined, or her starring role in “Maude”.

But here are some things you might not have known about Bea Arthur:

  • She was the inspiration for Dirty Harry.
  • The word “Cuntsicle” was coined by her when she met Joan Collins.
  • She once climbed the Empire State Building just to prove that she could.
  • She’s actually Robin Williams in a wig, speaking with a rough accent.
  • Kathleen Turner and Bea Arthur started a phone sex line in 1983, but it didn’t last more than a month.
  • She’s the only woman to have slept with 23 consecutive presidents.
  • With one punch, she could knock down a redwood tree.
  • Jimmy Hoffa was actually hidden inside her vagina.
  • When Tom Jones saw her, he’d throw manties at her.
  • She and Betty White once killed a man and buried him in the desert.
  • Her real name was B. Arthur. The B stood for Brian.

RIP, Bea. You will be missed!