Stab Magazine | My Dead Friends Are Waves

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My Dead Friends Are Waves

Ruminations about death, perpetuation and surfing.

style // Nov 29, 2017
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A few months before I graduated high school, a friend of mine killed himself. Nobody knew what to think.

I’d had a class with him that semester, Home Economics, which meant a rosy-cheeked woman in her 50s would teach us how to make chocolate chip cookies while praying nobody would set anything on fire. I remember regularly trying to set things on fire. I remember it being the most fun class I ever had.

The day after his suicide, Home Economics wasn’t so fun. Everybody shuffled into the room looking at their feet, unsure whether to talk about it or hug one another or just…

When the bell rang to start the class, the teacher tried to address the situation and started hysterically crying. She wasn’t the only one.

Our school was strict about not letting students leave the building during class hours. But that day the collective dismay weighed heavy enough to bend and eventually snap the laws that governed our little world. I got up and left Home Economics, skipping the rest of my classes for the day. I was never reprimanded.

It was rainy, windy and cold when I left — the weather matched the mood — but the waves were at least ridable. And by ridable, I mean that they were able to be ridden, literally. I’m not saying that any reasonable person would have an interest in riding them. But I had no idea what else to do, so I put on a wet 5-mil, booties and gloves and dragged my 5’11 into an empty white-capped ocean.

And I couldn’t help but feel like there was something out there with me.

In the past few days, surfing lost two very special individuals: Oscar Moncada and Jean Da Silva. Both of them meant a lot of things to a lot of people.

7makesbestimage3

On the crest of everything.

Photography

Matt Clark

Normally, when a surfer dies, there will be a paddle out in their honor. In some cases, a memorial will be erected at their homebreak. A close friend might have a meaningful surf trip or session on their deceased loved one’s board. There’s no protocol for this type of thing. There’s no guide on how to process it and, really, there shouldn’t be.

But I feel like I learned something on that cold, rainy, windy day when I was 18 years old. Something that will stick with me until the day I go.

When a person dies, their heart stops pumping blood through their body. The absence of a pulse means the absence of oxygen; your brain loses the fuel it needs to make you walk, talk, sweat, dance, sniff and feel. Eventually, your flesh becomes dust.

Now, oxygen is one thing — but what happens to energy? To whatever you want to call the force that wakes us up at 4 AM when the forecast warrants it, that keeps us out until 5 AM when it doesn’t—that gives us wit and creative speed and maybe a Stab Disqus avatar and handle—that atomically sculpts us into who we are and drives us to do what we do?

The coke-bottle lenses over at Futurism had some thoughts on the subject.

“The total amount of energy in an isolated system does not, cannot, change. The universe as a whole is closed. However, human bodies (and other ecosystems) are not closed — they’re open systems. We exchange energy with our surroundings.

In death, the collection of atoms of which you are composed (a universe within the universe) are repurposed. Those atoms and that energy will always be around. Therefore, your “light,” that is, the essence of your energy — not to be confused with your actual consciousness — will continue to echo throughout space until the end of time.”

Personally, I like to think it goes somewhere else. Energy never really dies, and neither does a person’s. And in the case of my dead friends — from the ones who surfed to the ones who couldn’t swim — I like to think theirs become waves.

Sure, you can point out that waves are created by wind, wind is created by imbalances in atmospheric pressure, imbalances in atmospheric pressure are caused by air density and, yeah, I fucking get it. Have a little faith.

Faith is the ability to look beyond fact. And through faith, things become real — look to any religion for proof. But do we have to?

Offering recommendations for funeral proceedings, NPR disagrees. At your wake,  “You’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith… According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

My dead friends are waves. Yours could be, too.

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