In many ways 2018 was one of my best years – I was promoted, got a raise, started doing a job that I love, lost 92 pounds, improved my health to the point that I’ve been able to stop certain medications, and overall am happy with my position in life.
In some ways, though, 2018 was one of the worst years in recent history. In July, the world lost an amazing human being. My friend, my spiritual mentor, my colleague, my soul brother, Okey J. Napier, Jr. Although it has been five months since he passed to the Summerlands, I find it difficult to comprehend a life without him in it. The thought is still so surreal to me that I have kept a copy of his obituary in my e-mail, reminding myself everyday that yes, he is gone. For whatever reason, I feel that I have to do this because emotionally I’m not ready to accept it yet, but must keep myself grounded in the reality of his passing.
I take comfort in the fact that my faith has helped me through this unthinkable time. You see, I don’t believe that death is the end, but merely another path in the journey of existence. Okey still exists, just not in physical form, not on this plane, in this realm. But he’s still here, just not in the way I’m used to. I still talk to him, and I know that he can hear me. It saddens me deeply that I cannot reciprocate, that my earthly body is limited in this way. Not that I don’t believe that we can interact with spirits – I most certainly believe that…I sometimes pause to recognize something, knowing it’s a message from that realm. I wholeheartedly believe that he’s at peace and with his beloved Granny.
But I’m selfish. It’s not enough for me. At least not now. I miss our talks. We would often chat online or have Skype conversations to talk about everything from life to religion to our writing projects. I miss going to his place whenever I would visit Huntington. We would talk for hours over cups of coffee, often glowing over our nostalgia for the good old days when we were both students at Marshall University, ready to take on the world for the good fight in LGBT rights. He would make me laugh with his stories and humble me with his expressed respect for my knowledge and talent. These are memories that will forever live in my heart.
I recently went back to Huntington to visit family for the holidays. It was a good trip, but noticeably hollow in the fact that it was the first time since his memorial that I went to the area and didn’t spend time with him. For my own emotional well-being, I paid tribute to our connection by doing what we would normally do – I went to Starbucks at Pullman Square, had a big cup of coffee, and reflected on life, the issues of the day, and imagined what Okey would have to say about it all. As the tears ran down my face, I tried my hardest to smile as I thought about him. I’m not there yet. One day I will be able to express happiness for all that was. I guess right now, I’m still grieving.
Over the past few months, all I can think of is one of the last things that I said to him during my visit in June. We were discussing the Egyptian Goddess Bast, the cat Goddess of Joy. He had asked me my opinion on how things were going in life, and I told him that by Bast, to enjoy means to live IN joy – that’s what is meant for us.
In honor of him, I’m going to do my best to live up to that.