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There’s No Right Way to Deal With Loss

I haven’t written much on here since I packed up all my belongings and moved to another city. I was excited to document the new chapter in my life, to experience new things, foods, interactions with new people, and figure out my place in my new home. A lot of things have been taking up my time, and I didn’t find much motivation to do some actual writing. I found some. And it has come from the unexpected passing of my cousin, Lucille.

As I grow older, my view on life in general continues to change. I accept things with more ease than I would have been able to in my younger days. And yes, I am relatively young, but I do feel that there has been enough life altering experiences that I have directly and indirectly been a part of, that I am becoming more accepting of the fact that life often times deals you a crappy hand and you either fold or you make the best of it.

I’m 32 years old.

In the grand scheme of life, that’s young. I acknowledge that. What I also acknowledge is that age is just a number and anything can happen. I have loved ones in my life both younger and older who have had to deal with cancer, depression, suicide,… Some of these people are no longer with us. It wasn’t until a friend of mine (close to my age) died unexpectedly a couple years ago that I realized that the circle of life is more like a crazy, jagged structure that has no obvious shape or path. When you understand the basics of life, you come to terms with certain realities. I fully expect to witness the passing of my parents, maybe even my brother. That’s not a morbid thought. That’s based off of the life expectancy of age and gender. I also expect that I will be sending my dogs to the Rainbow Bridge at some point in the next few years. Again, it’s not morbid. I don’t obsess over the ideas, but in the back of my mind, they are there and they are things I have to accept as part of life.

My cousin, Lucille, was not much older than me. I found a letter she had written and sent to me right after my 13th birthday. She was already well into college in another city. She used to babysit me and my brother when we were kids, and I distinctly remember her making us grill cheese sandwiches. Sometimes, we would get them with ham, and whenever I asked, she would cut the ham into a star.

I remember her watching Magic Knight Rayearth with me (I loved that anime), and she even gave us lighted pens that matched the colors of the main characters of the show. I remember her adding a little poem to a notebook I carried with me since 2002, and I remember being super envious of her penmanship. Because she lived in another city, we didn’t see her during the holidays much. Before the next generation of cousins were born, we did a lot of White Elephant events. Lucille sent in one present; I won that present. It was a homemade quilt, and it’s amazing. I still use it to this day.

I remember seeing her when her father remarried (her mother/my aunt had passed years before this) and she asked me what I thought about it. I said “well, there aren’t any fires that have broken out, so I guess she’s okay with it” and Lucille laughed. She had a contagious laugh. It was just wholesome.

I remember her asking me if I thought fairies and elves were real or existed at some point. I’m not sure how I responded, but I know she believed in them at the time she asked me that question. She believed in otherworldly things because there just had to be more to this place.

Fast forward to now. Just last week. We received texts from her sister that Lucille was ill. She had been in the hospital for a few days. I sent her a text saying that I was thinking of her, and I loved her. Even though I hadn’t seen her in many years, the sentiment was still true. I never got a response from her, but I hope that she saw it. Couple days later, we received news that Lucille had passed. I had just gotten to work, and I just cried in my car.

Even while writing this, I feel like crying. And I feel many different emotions. Above all sadness, then comes disbelief, confusion, anger, more sadness, rinse and repeat. All of us mourn in different ways. My mind went all over the place in the last week. I wondered why her, then wondered who was next, then contemplated the fact that it could be me or my brother, then went into thinking I was being punished for moving away from my family, then I went numb. There’s no real logic to your feelings when you’re in mourning, and really there’s no right way to mourn.

I play video games or cook, anything that takes my focus off of the sadness I feel when I think about her. Some people deal with loss by just not talking about it or talking about it all the time. Some use humor to deflect, others find as many things as they can that reminds them of the person who is gone. Some just don’t process it at all and don’t accept it as truth. Some break down. There is no wrong way to mourn. Actually, there is one wrong way. I cannot and will never accept suicide as a means of mourning. I know that if someone were to do that in response to Lucille’s death, she would be pissed and probably hunt down your spirit and kick your ass. Lucille celebrated life. Her very name means light.

This year is the first year of my entire life that I have spent the holidays without my family. I never felt more lonely, but only because I couldn’t be with my parents and my brother during this family tragedy. Luckily, I have friends here and all over the world who have helped me. I know I regurgitated a lot of stuff on Twitter , FB, and IG, but they didn’t mind. They were only supportive. Another way I deal with mourning is continually telling people that I love them. Death not only serves as a catalyst to remember fond memories of those no longer here, but it should also revitalize the relationships that are still present in physical form.

So if you’ve made this far into my blog post, thank you. And I love you. Thank you for being part of my community, and thank you for being with me this long as I remember one kick ass cousin who truly did make this world a little brighter.

If you would like to help the family, Lucille’s brother set up a donation page.

I have few memories of Monty Oum, but they are all good and treasured

All of the staff members at Rooster Teeth are so giving of their time to their fans and community that it makes you wonder how they possibly had the energy to add a unique 40+ hour job to their weeks. That can really be said of Monty Oum more than anyone else. I saw Dead Fantasy 2 first before I saw any of his other work. Even now, that video is still mesmerizing and my mind is blown every time I try to process how much creativity and effort it took to make just one of his videos.

Social media has always been a sanctuary for my mind (which is a watered down way of saying I’m addicted to it), so I naturally followed as many RT staff members on Twitter as I could. It wasn’t just their work work that was fascinating but each of them were their own person and had vastly different personalities. When you step back and see them as separate people from their camera embodiments, you see them in a whole different light. Monty in particular, however, was quite the same although it was apparent that he would have hundreds and probably thousands of 140 characters conversations if he could. It was there that I started interacting with him, and I was always surprised when he would respond back. He has admitted on more than one occasion that he wished he had more time to connect with his followers, but he hoped that pouring himself into his work for everyone’s enjoyment helped make up for that.

My first impressions of Monty (prior to personally meeting him) was that he was stoic and robotic. I thought work was all he cared about because it was all he did. But as I observed his work over time, I realized other things about him. He loved to dance, he loved macarons and Cambodian Chicken Stir Fried Curry, he affectionately trolled other RT staff, and holy shit was he fashionable. I went through my Twitter archive trying to find little interactions here and there I had with Monty. And while they were very short and fleeting moments in the grand picture of life, I cherish them. I will not hide the fact that I fangirled a tiny bit at the beginning of our friendship.

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I attended RTX 2012 as a regular attendee. I wasn’t able to see everyone I wanted or get their autographs/pictures, and I missed Monty completely. That was going to change at RTX 2013.  Of course, like every RTX attendee, I was excited to head over to Austin and enjoy the festivities. So when the time came again to prepare for RT related shenanigans:

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I met Monty for the first time at the RT Sidequest charity auction, and I made good on my promise to hug him. I literally ran across the room, shouted his name and promptly glomped him. Part of me was afraid I would trip over something and fall flat on my face, but I was going to see someone I admired and adored, so I didn’t care. During this time, I was becoming more involved with the RT community and even hosted my first RT Vegas event. This community became my family. I saw the staff members as actual friends, fun people I could talk to and have a good time with. I don’t remember what I said to Monty, but he laughed and it was an awesome, genuine laugh. It was then that I realized how down to earth he was. Brilliant mind that he had, he was very easy to talk to. Fellow RT community member BaghdadBean caught the moment and I am beyond grateful.

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RT Sidequest Charity Auction 2013

First impression after meeting Monty was HOLY F*** this guy dresses so much better than me. Everything he had on was utilized to perfection. I don’t even know how he came up with that collaboration, but he was classy and he wasn’t afraid to show it. It was my first time being a Guardian at RTX that year and I was honored to be chosen as part of the PA team. The ongoing joke was that Monty probably had an elaborate outfit for each day of the con. That totally was not a joke when RTX rolled around. I grabbed one final picture with him when RTX officially ended. The staff stayed behind to spend time and talk to all the Guardians when the con closed. It was their way of showing appreciation for all the work that was done over the weekend. My interaction with Monty was short, but unforgettable.

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Fast forward to PAX East 2014, I ran into Monty again through mutual friends and that was the first time I met Sheena. Pictures of them together cannot possibly convey how adorable they are in person. Monty was always private about his romantic life, and it was at that time I saw an affectionate side to him, so it was pretty obvious that Sheena was very special to him. He introduced us, and I remember thinking “wow… Monty Oum knows my name.” It sounds silly, but when someone you highly respect acknowledges you, there is a feeling of elation. I was helping out a friend with a Mass Effect panel and photoshoot, and Monty and Sheena mentioned they would try to stop by the shoot to say hi. They did. RT had a booth at PAX East, so they were busy, but they took the time to chat for a bit. Few words were exchanged due to time, but the gesture remained. In the back of my mind, I thought, “geez, you guys don’t have to take out of your day for someone like me. I’m a nobody” but their actions proved they never saw people in their community that way.

Then came RWBY. The team was always working late, working around the clock to meet their deadlines. There was so much love poured into RWBY, and I think I enjoyed it more than a lot of anime/animated shows out there because I essentially saw it born. I knew the talented minds behind the show and they shared quite a bit of the creative process with us. Later that year, I attended DragonCon, and I was so happy to see RWBY cosplay. RT didn’t have a presence since PAX Prime was happening at the exact same time, but I tried to remind Monty, Miles and Kerry any time I could that their work was appreciated.

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Vine can be found here. The cosplayers were so happy that there was a chance for Monty to see their cosplay even if only via video. I wish Monty was there to see them in person. It was quite adorable. When I think about it, that must be a creator’s ultimate joy, no? To make something and to see people gravitate toward it, embrace it, and display their love for it in various ways.

On to RTX 2014. I was chosen as a freelancer PA, so I helped out staff wherever and whenever they needed assistance. Monty was the only one to cause me a slight heart attack. Basic summary, he had an animation panel to speak at, and he was nowhere to be found. Frantic, I was running around the convention center trying to find him while his PA stayed at the panel room in case he popped up. Head Guardian, SailorTweek caught up with me and asked me if I was okay. Frustrated, all I could yell was F***ing ASIANS! and ran off again. At least that got a good laugh. Finally, Monty text that he was going to panel room. I informed his PA to wait in the back hallways to stand by and minutes pass… she responds she still hasn’t seen him. I poke my head into the panel room, and I see someone in a blond wig sitting in the center of the stage. Apparently, Monty went through the front door. That dude loved to make an entrance.

RTX 2014 was the last time I saw him. It’s taken me a bit of time to write all this. I scroll up, reading the rough draft, and I am grateful to have these memories of him. They are so few compared to the close friends he had, so I cannot even imagine what gems they have to talk about. There will never be another Monty Oum. What he achieved in his short life, many could not achieve in three lifetimes. Not only that, but he encouraged that same type of passion, even demanded it of those he worked with. He was kind and he was also a hard ass depending on what was needed of him. He brought hope to those who were down on themselves, he motivated others when they needed that extra push. Like a sneaky ninja, he would swoop in and bring a smile to your face, then smoke bomb away for a few weeks.

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He had a good sense of humor. Troll that he was…

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He was appreciative when kindness was bestowed upon him even though you kinda wonder what the hell happened to his grammar (I sent macarons to the RWBY team).

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Most of all, he left us all with such an awe-inspiring legacy. His passion is unmatched and his influence on others is impossible to overlook. He brought out the best in everyone around him. He wanted to inspire, to create, to raise the bar each time because he wanted more than the sky’s limit. And in his short life, he achieved that. If you love him, that’s fantastic, if you don’t care for him, most likely, you at the very least respect his work. He is probably one of the most successful people I will have ever known. And he is probably one of the wealthiest. Based on the reports from RT, he was surrounded by those who loved him very much. To me, that is greater than any monetary value one can possess. To be surrounded in love, to do what you love, to be loved for what you do, and to express love to those closest to you… that is a successful life. And beyond that, he may be gone, but thousands of memories of him are being written and they are creating paths for other creative minds. That’s the Oum legacy.

And when he wasn’t tweeting about work, he showed great wisdom.

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One of these days, Monty, we will meet again. And I cannot wait to see what you’ve been cooking up while you were away.