“When great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly, spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.Our senses, restored, neverto be the same, whisper to us.They existed. They existed.We can be.Be and be better.For they existed.”Maya Angelou
I write this from a sweltering Nashville, where the temperature is 93 degrees and the humidity is brutal. I’m here for a couple reasons. a. I hadn’t gone on a vacation in over four years, b. I’ve wanted to visit Nashville for about a decade now, and c. I needed to step away from my everyday world for a hot minute to recenter myself a bit. Best place to do that is a place where you barely know a soul.
I say I needed to recenter myself because I’ve felt like I was drowning while simultaneously doing the most. Four jobs will do that to you. Life is crazy. So is death.
Grief. Grief is such a bizarre experience. It never gets easier, it never goes away, and you can never prepare yourself for it. All you can do is accept that it is a part of life, and trust that the universe will help you a little bit when you feel like your legs are about to buckle out from under you, which is how I’ve been feeling for a couple weeks now. I’ve always advised loved ones on how important it is to allow yourself to properly grieve, to feel all the layers of it, the anger, the sadness, the love, the fear, every last ounce of it. I’ve also always been pretty unsuccessful at taking my own advice in life.
One thing I’d like to say off the bat, that I think is important to note, is that you will never completely get over the loss of a beloved being in your life. Don’t listen to people that tell you that you will. Your heart will always be a little broken, but those little shatters are exactly what allow the other person to continue coming out and showing up in ways you don’t expect, but in ways that you don’t realize how badly you need them. So, exalt in staying a little broken hearted because that’s where that shine can break through and that glow can fill you. Care for the breaks, but also appreciate them. They are powerful. Grief is powerful.
I am broken hearted. That is an understatement. I still can’t find the exact words to describe what my brain and my heart feel like right now. I probably never will, and that is ok. Again, grief is a bizarre experience. However, I am so grateful to have had a person in my life who filled it SO fully, that every single day my day is full of moments that break my heart again and again.
Two weeks ago, my best friend was murdered in an act of senseless violence.
It doesn’t get less jarring to say, feel or think about. The words feel blunt and almost vulgar to say, but I feel like it is important after something violent to be realistic. He would want me to be realistic, and wouldn’t want me sugar coating a thing. That is what happened, and now a domino effect of grief in humans has erupted, but at the root of it, one is gone.
I’ve unfortunately lost many family members, friends, partners, loved ones over the course of my life, but this is my first experience losing such an insanely kind and extraordinarily special human being to such a painful, violent act. Because of that, and because of how often this person filled my life on a daily basis, I just can’t make any sense of it and can’t move past it.
That’s ok. People need to realize they don’t need to make sense of things in life, cause it simply never will make sense. The world is an ugly place, but the world is also a beautiful place. My friend Eric would say the extremes of those two sides are what make living in this world so damn poetic.
I could write for pages about what made Eric special. People often say “you’ll never meet someone like…” so and so, but it tends to be hyperbole. You will never meet someone like Eric Anthamatten. He was just so fucking weird, in the most inspiring, giving, beautiful, monumentally moving way. There was not a bad, harmful bone in his body. He was dependable in a way that is damn near impossible to find in people. He was one of the only people that I very literally always knew was always there for me, to the point that I probably took advantage of it at times, or didn’t say I love you enough. Even when you say it often, it’s still never enough.
My best friend Eric’s entire adult life was essentially devoted to helping others. He was a PhD professor at numerous universities, while also teaching in prisons, and was one of the first people I got to talk in length about prison reform and the criminal system that is our criminal prison system. He was an activist who brought so much philosophy into his work, life and entire being. He was a martial artist and teacher, teaching so many kids empowerment and strength. He was an artist, a writer and a musician, whose words and instrumentation played for so many. He was simply always there to make you sound better, feel better, laugh better, cry better, and just, be better.
My bedroom is full of the most random little presents from him over the years. Presents from trips, presents from special occasions, presents just because.I hate that I’m finally on a trip after years where I would have bought him a present, that I know he would have treasured no matter how small or big it was. I hate that I hadn’t bought him a gift in so long, cause I hadn’t been anywhere or done anything. I think about the presents I did buy him, the instruments, and I get so deeply sad that I’ll never get to hear him play them again. He was music to me. He was my safe space to hear melodies and lyrics, to experiment, to hurt, to do LSD and come across a random live album from Vienna that was the most beautiful thing we’d ever heard and to ugly cry slash WEEP for an hour during it, while on opposite sides of the room, refusing to even hug. He was the person I knew I was safest to try out any song in any key, in the safe space of his music room.
I will forever wonder what he bought me in Mexico, and I will forever be destroyed that I’ll never know what it was.
My heart is broken for him. My heart is broken for his beautiful, loving family, who have always treated me with the utmost kindness. Anytime I saw his parents, I would constantly think about what a perfect representation he was of them. And right now, my heart is broken for me too, which is a feeling I have fought in the past allowing for myself. Again, grief is always such a bizarre thing. I can’t say that enough, and so many times, it’s all I can say. It just never gets easier, and we find ourselves in this constant battle not to vehemently hate how fucking unfair this world can be.
Two of my four jobs are at bars. Each day is filled with hundreds of strangers asking me “Great. How are you?” as the immediate response to me asking them how they are. Having hundreds of people ask you how you are, when you’re not ok, is a bizarre experience. Responding “I’m fine” when you’re not, on repeat, like a broken record, is a bizarre experience. You almostttttttt begin convincing yourself you are, but then something happens, something reminds, something triggers, and you remember all over again. Grief is such a bizarre thing.
I wish I didn’t hate being in photos so much. When you lose someone, you’ll always wish you had more. I try not to have many regrets in life, but I’ve realized that personality trait is one I regret. So I’ll tell you: Take more photos and videos of every single person that you really, really, love.
I can’t express how lucky you were if you truly got to call Eric Anthammaten your friend. He was just a remarkable human being who so humbly hid behind silliness and quirkiness, what was an absolutely brilliant mind and compassionate, open, tender heart. I am so eternally grateful to have been one of those lucky ones.
I really just don’t get life sometimes. If I’d said that to Eric, it would have turned into a conversation into the sun rising, probably with some cheap whiskey, with ole Dickbutt providing me with a plethora of bizarre jokes, music sound bytes and a catalogue of philosophical quotes, as we laughed and cried and refused to hug.
Right now I wish I could hear just one of them.
I cry a lot nowadays. That’s ok. I don’t want to do much nowadays. That’s ok. I work a lot to not have to really process things. That’s ok. (For now) I want to be by myself often nowadays. That’s ok.
I am not okay. But I will be. I can not stress enough allowing yourself the proper time to grieve, however long that is. But I also can not stress enough, paying attention to the signs. There are so many of them, and they can be so beautiful. They can be tiny and subtle, or they can be in your face plain as a day, like your lost loved one is laughing right in your face. The past two weeks have been full of them. I love them. A simple hello from who knows where.
Laugh. Cry. Feel. Grieve. Mourn. Love. Live. Be.
I’m not one for living for other people, but I am one for learning from other people.Grief can either destroy you, or it can focus you. That is a choice you can make. Seeing a human being touch so many, really makes you want to do the same thing. I’m doing my damndest to just live and love a little better. To both others and myself.
I wish that Eric was still here. He would be so happy to know I finally took a damn vacation. He would be so happy to know I was giving myself some time, and that some huge things have come my way recently.
Today at the National Museum of African American Music, I wanted to text him every two minutes at something I saw. He was the person that I wanted to tell all about this trip. He’s the person I wanted to buy a gift from the gift shop for. He was the person.
Purple Rain was one of our songs. After Prince passed away, I helped him shoot a cover video in the Prince St train station. Another night, we also went and saw Purple Rain in theaters to experience it on the big screen. It was one of my favorite movie experiences ever.
Today at the museum, out of nowhere, every single huge screen randomly put up Prince singing and playing the f*ck out of Purple Rain, and for seven glorious minutes, I was completely surrounded by like 100+ feet of Prince. I was overwhelmed, I cried, I felt an extreme sense of safety and love. It felt like a gargantuan hello and a hug from him and the universe.
After it was over, one of the staff members came over to me probably because she could see all over my face how moved I was. I asked her how often that happens. She said only once or twice a day, and then continued to give me the run down of other artists on that schedule. I think the universe knew I needed to be at that place at that exact time. Always pay attention to the signs. They lift you up when you feel alone, and remind you that you indeed, never are.
Eric Anthamatten. If you didn’t know him, you missed out on one of the singular most fascinating, intelligent, artistic, talented, compassionate, weird, articulate, dynamic, eccentric, brilliant, kind, and caring individuals on this earth.
My hero Maya Angelou said, “I answer the heroic question, ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ with ‘it is here in my heart and mind and memories.”
Grief is such a bizarre experience.
I miss my friend. The world misses my friend. The world loved my friend. My friend loved me. That’s pretty damn beautiful.
Be and be better. For they existed.
Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorkers, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.
His professional passions include: film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and all around storytelling
His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).
His current loves are his dog, Domino, a whiskey neat, and in case you didn’t know, his mother is the greatest human being on earth ❤