Anthony was an amazing digital CGI artist, photographer, musician and friend to many in the photography community and beyond until he had his life senselessly taken away on the fateful night of March 18th. You’ll never want to experience the feeling of seeing your loved one’s life taken away, trying to bring them back and having them take their last breath in your arms, then getting robbed of an ambulance ride to the hospital with them. It cuts deep to the root of your soul and tears your heart out. How does one live without a heart? I’m still trying to find the answer to that question.
I know we have all had different experiences with him, whether you were a family member, former classmate, roommate or lover. Even as a fellow photographer, you probably felt a sense of camaraderie and his willingness to help his fellow photographers on the many forums and events he shot at. As a model, his friendly personality would put one at ease, and he did like to go out of his way do to make each shoot he did special and make each model feel their best. I was lucky enough to witness both his camaraderie and his working with models.
He was a gentle dreamer and a man of high standards who had a great sense of humor, extreme intelligence, a unique way of solving problems and kindness to others. He never settled for anything less than what he really wanted in love and in life.
Unbeknownst to many, he was a very sensitive person who had been treated poorly by many people through out his life and often felt alone and undervalued. So he kept walls up and kept people away at arms length. To be honest, there weren’t many people he actually wanted to be friends with or get close to.
He went through a long period of darkness until he finally found himself and what he wanted through a lot of time alone and deep meditation. He was a deep thinker and spiritual person with a beautiful soul although many would or could not see the diamond in the rough.
We met in 2012, when I had taken a one year vow of celibacy and break from any relationships. Timing and circumstance would bring us together and pull us apart for years, until one night in late 2017, we talked for 3 hours in his car about everything from the masks people wear to coffee enemas (yes, I said coffee enemas). Any walls we had, came down that night. In the next few months, our friendship grew exponentially. I was moth to a flame, I could see the inner light shining and was helpless to stop it’s natural course and allow myself to be vulnerable to him.
Anthony is the love of my life, my storybook romance, the yin to my yang. I am the Universe and he is the darkness that surrounds me.
We loved each other unconditionally and fiercely for exactly one year. Our love is magical and we loved harder and did more things in that time than most couples do during an entire lifetime. He was everything I ever wanted and more in a best friend, lover and soulmate. Everything about us was serendipitous from the matching rings we have to the events that day leading right up to that terrible night. I’ll never forget my last hug and kiss from him, holding his hand as we made our way to the parking lot for what we thought would be a relaxing evening of Chinese food and one of the many Marvel movies I haven’t really seen.
I can say without any doubt we were both happier than we had ever been in our entire lives. We had found our home together. The pieces that didn’t seem to makes sense, all of a sudden, just fell into place. The first week we spent an entire weekend together camping in my studio. Just one month into our relationship, I took him to Vegas, less than 3 months later we moved in together. I had the best birthday ever with him. We celebrated Thanksgiving together and went to Austin. We had a magical holiday season together, which neither of us (especially him) had had in a long time. Two weeks before he was murdered, he showed me the engagement ring he was saving up to buy me. We made the most of every moment, even though I was busy running my business and he had to work the dreaded day job. I am grateful that I was allowed to see the true beauty inside of him and he see the inner light that shines in me. Most people don’t get that in life.
One of the many quotes from him to me in one of our many musings together that keeps me going these days: Those that refuse to look past the cover, will never know the story that is written. You have strength, intelligence, wit, drive, tenacity. Your beauty is just a bonus to the things I look for. Because in my mind, if you’re not strong enough to stand alone, then I can not stand with you.
Obviously, I wish this didn’t happen. But I wouldn’t trade my time with him for anything, it was the most valuable and fulfilling time of my life. This pain, this grief, these emotions are mine and I’m owning them as the price you pay when you love someone truly with all your heart. You have to love yourself unconditionally too and Anthony was the beacon that led me to love myself in that way. He loved me as I am and I love myself as I am, grief stricken or not.
I hope that by sharing my experience with love and grief,I will encourage anyone paying attention to have integrity and never settle for less than what you really want in life and love. Don’t be complacent. The real things in life aren’t always easy because it’s all about taking that risk, that first leap whatever that it is you feel a calling for. Life is too short to be unhappy or just ok, beat yourself up or wonder about the what ifs. This requires radical honesty with yourself and listening to the Universe, for we are all connected.
Love fiercely with all your heart, but know that the more pure and fierce the love, the more it hurts when something like this happens. You’ll want to die, you’ll falter, you’ll be angry and find out who your true friends really are. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised by unexpected support on your side be it from strangers or the community. I know I am thankful for my community, strangers and friends.
Your true friends will hold space for you and actually be there when you need them, but will understand that you need space to cry, scream into the darkness, punch walls or lay in bed. I am eternally grateful for the handful of true friends that are in my inner circle. Honestly, without them, I would not be here right now.
Some will be playing the regrets game and others who never gave them a second thought or seldom if ever reached out in everyday life will all of a sudden personalize your grief for any myriad of reasons. Most won’t know what to say, so then come the I’m sorrys which are in the best of intentions because really there isn’t anything to say that will bring them back.
Everyone handles death and tragedy in different ways, there is no right or wrong way to handle it, it’s individual. There are compassionate ways to handle it and other ways with ill intent. There is no timeline on grief and losing the one who meant the most to you. I can only hope that someday I will still be able to look back on these wonderful memories and this love and feel lighter than I do right now. That’s really the best one can hope for. It might never get better, but either way I will keep on my path whatever it may be.
For me everyday is a journey of emotions, from rivers of tears and sadness and longing. to mountains of anger at someone he didn’t care for personalizing the death, to the desert of pushing through and doing my taxes (yes, I did them), to tromping through mud still trying to create (because I am an artist) and go about my life because I know that the wheel of life keeps turning no matter what. Change is constant. For better or worse.
For outsiders looking in, I invite you to choose compassion and consideration for the grieving, don’t tell someone to get over it, don’t tell them that they will be ok or the deceased wants you to be happy, you got spared for a reason or that you have to let them go. Also, please don’t personalize it, unless you were actually inner circle at that time or a family member. I invite you to really consider your relationship or lack thereof with the deceased when they were alive and think about how you would have done things differently in the time leading up to that death and then take that and apply it to the people you care about who are still alive. I invite you to live your life as if every last second counts, because it does.
Time is the most valuable, unpredictable and limited commodity we have in our lives. People place a high value on money but time and memories, that is the salt of the earth.
Ask yourself…Do you want your memories based on choices out of complacency, fear or what ifs? Or do you want your memories and time spent here to be based on following your dreams, your calling, based in love not fear or ego? In the words of Jim Carey (Anthony and I were fans of his motivational speeches), I’d much rather fail trying at something I love, than something I don’t love because I’m scared.
Without further ado… here is the heartfelt memorial video I made in his honor. It’s my first attempt at something like this. So much love and intention went into creating a brief portrait of the man I know and love.Its about 20 mins long and you’ll want to listen with the sound ON. All the music is by him except one song is by Nigel Stanford (one of his favorites).