Dear Zoë Alexandra Payne

I was recently told that I have not properly mourned your death. Considering it has been 14 years, maybe it is about time I start trying to figure that out.

I guess the way in which Dad and I tried to spread your ashes doesn’t count towards mourning. Trust me, in our head’s it seemed monumental to spread your ashes in the hills you spent so much time. But Dad got tired so we barely got up the first 100 meters of rocky peak. And when the urn merely cracked instead of exploded and the ashes barely fell out instead of flying majestically through the air, we could only think that you were watching and laughing hysterically.

But I digress…

I was only 18 when you died. I was just beginning to figure out for myself who I was as a human. I realize now that the Luke you had to deal with was nothing like the Luke that I am today. And there is no doubt in my mind that we would get along like a house on fire. I have been told a number of times, in recent years by the people that probably knew you better than I ever did, that I am definitely your son. By the things I do, the way I do them, the people I meet.

There is so much I wish I could share with you. My beautiful wife. How I learned a language, how I want to learn more. I wish you could have taken my golden retriever before I came back to Chile. Where I have travelled and lived. I want to travel more than you! I like making things out of wood. I had a cat with seven toes. I race bikes now. So much to tell you!

Sadly, I sometimes forget your voice, or your smile, or struggle to remember when we last touched each other. And I feel like a horrible person for that. But life has a pleasant way of reminding me that you will live on indefinitely in high def clarity.

leo_smallMy friend Brian messaged me the other day explaining just how amazing it is that 26 years later your Lion picture is being admired and used for texture and study in illustrations of the latest Ice Age movie. Oh, or how your friend Denise got a hold of Ros and wanted to give me a picture that you had given her when you were living with Jeff. And she went on to talk about that time of life and how impressive you were as a person and gave me a new window to see you through. But most importantly you will forever live on in my sense of adventure, my brown eyes, and my belief that there is so much more to this world.

I wish I hadn’t been the naive teenager who chose not to care more during those last difficult years of your life. I don’t know what I would have done or could have done, but when you decided that life wasn’t just hard, but impossible, I wish I would’ve been there for you … with you. I wish I wasn’t such a jerk! You might remember the last words I said to you a week before you left…

“Wait Luke, before you go … what do you think about my new walker?” as you leaned on it with one hand and waved over it with the other.

“Pathetic.” is all I could say while I looked you up and down and I jumped on my motorcycle in a rush to get back to university and the new life I was living. I didn’t even think twice what I might had just done.

I want you to know that I would do anything to erase that moment from existence. To replace it with me looking you up and down, and walking over and giving you a big hug and a smile and telling you that I love you.

A week later you left us. I want you to know that I love you and I appreciate everything you gave me and did for me and I want you to know that you were, and are, and always will be one of the most important influences in my universe.