In this world, you will have tribulation… but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.
Can we pray? I thank you Lord for allowing me the privilege of being Ethan’s dad… of playing that part for these 20 years. I pray that this time and these words would honor Ethan and honor you.
We are here to celebrate Ethan Scott Foster… We apologize if it is irreverent and not at all somber… but this is the way it has to be… maybe because he was part Creole. he touched many lives in his 20 years. I would like to thank all of you who took the time to come here and share and we will have time to share stories and hugs, tear and laughter, a meal and music.
I’m going to try to acknowledge and thank everyone, different groups that have travelled to be here… so if you could raise a hand or stand… I’d like to thank my family… Marquita’s cousins… Our Lifequest family, Our Oasis Family, Our Bridge/LACF family, Ethan’s Rim High school family. Our Karate Family, Ethan’s Fresno State family, including Kappa Kappa Psi, Our mountain people… His online friends… And anyone else I have left out… Some of you I haven’t seen in a long long time… thank you for being here.
At his Fresno State celebration I mentioned that Ethan liked to give hugs. Big hugs, little hugs, long hugs, hello hugs, goodby hugs, glad to see you hugs, thank you hugs, bear hugs, hugs you get buried in, hugs you didn’t see coming, ambush hugs, Hugs with a little squeeze at the end… I had them raise their hands if they ever got an Ethan hug and about 300 people raised their hands. I asked them if they needed an Ethan hug and 300 hands went up. I told them that they couldn’t keep the hugs and needed to give them away… now I see hashtag Ethanhugs and people signing off with Ethanhugs online… so I’d like to do that again. How many people here have ever been the victim of an Ethan hug? How many people need an Ethan hug? Look around and find someone…
Ethan had a short life, but a full life and he touched many lives. We are proud to be his parents. I am posting my journey through grief on Facebook… and all the condolences and memories that have enveloped us in such love and given Marquita, Justin and I amazing comfort and strength…. Thank you all so much—everyone who shared songs and memories, prayers and good thoughts… and I thought of sharing that—but today is a celebration of Ethan’s life… a remembrance of who he was, of his humor, his sense of the absurd, his passionate arguments and exceptional intellect, his love of music, and his love of service to others. His head full of super highly interesting trivia… He was a man of perpetual motion, and clamor, and words and words and words and words. His frat name, Magellen, was a reference to a GPS system… and apparently GPS could also mean God, Please Stop.
Some people never saw Ethan without a smile. He rarely sat still. He barely slept. He thought at a thousand miles an hour, and said as much as his mouth could keep up with… no filter… And he’ll hate me sharing this… in elementary school, the girls at the bus stop called him “jet fuel boy.”
Service to others gave him joy. He was happiest giving people rides in his Jeep, Dim Sum. Or carrying something absurdly heavy. Or turning the kitchen into a disaster area. He loved to belong. To be in the noise. To be in formation. He loved difficult music, difficult rhythms, dissonance… and hated to practice. He aced tests and wrote deep and challenging papers… but hated to study. He read and wrote and did everything in intense bursts of passionate but brief attention… a flurry, a last minute charge, an abrupt change of direction… and then often a mess… for someone else to clean up.
Ethan couldn’t stand to see someone left out. He was the extrovert. He had a heart for the outcast. He reached out to the people on the fringes and pulled them in. He surrounded himself with freaks, outcasts, nerds, and band geeks… and here we are all today.
He loved being different. Originator of Dress like a Pimp day, inventor of the Ethan Hug, Chairman of the Table of Non-productivity, He was Cowbell Hero. And his choice of instruments was often on the basis of rescuing it from obscurity. Gong, mallets, cymbals, brake drum… mellophone. He wanted to play the biggest bass drum even though his knee and back said no. He loved theory. He loved dissonance, disharmony, discordance, abrupt shifts in time and rhythm… noise. Make a mistake? Make it with confidence and make it loud.
He had no filter… internal or external. He said what was on his mind. He could be arrogant. He could be thoughtless. He could be a jerk without ever meaning to hurt anyone. And people would just think, that is just Ethan being Ethan.
There was a dark side to this that only a few knew. Obsession over a thought or idea no matter how dark, how dissonant, how absurd could take him to very, very dark places. He had intense periods of insomnia and depression. Surrounded by friends, he felt alone. Loved by many, he felt unlovable. A freak, a misfit… worthless. He wanted to be loved. To belong. To be wanted. But in his darkest time he felt ignored, unloved, and unwanted. He once told his mother during one of these episodes that he wondered if he died would anyone would come to his funeral? Stupid Ethan. Look around. His doubts about his worth, his belonging, his significance, himself… all lies that echoed in a head where thoughts ran unfiltered and wild. Where normal frustrations, anxiety, worry, and doubt could grow exponentially into blinding pain. No voice inside that said “God Please Stop.” No filter. It is this battle with the darkness, with the thousand mile an hour thoughts, with absurdity that the barest research would have shown to be false, that any external observer, any survey of empirical evidence would have told him, dude that is a lie from the pit of hell.
On Monday, March 18 Ethan lost that battle.
When he was young, he would bring us the broken bits of whatever he just broke, and tell us, “It just sploded.” You didn’t know what unfiltered thought or curiousity caused him to investigate the intricate workings of that bit of expensive electronics, or why he felt he needed to test the structural integrity of that kitchen appliance. He always felt that this could explain why this toy was broken, or why that vase was in pieces, or why the computer was showing the blue screen of death. No voice inside that said “God Please Stop.” No answers. No regret. No explanation. It just sploded. His high school letterman’s jacket reads “Id simplex praemium”… It just exploded in latin. That is what you got sometimes. No other explanation.
Ethan seemed to have a special connection with Albert Camus and the philosophy of the absurd and in trying to live the absurd life. One essay has a particular take on the Mythological tale of Sisyphus… doomed by the gods to an eternity in hell … he is pushing a huge boulder up a mountain only to see it roll down again. His crime: putting Death in chains so that man would not have to die. As Sisyphus marches down the mountain to begin his eternally tragic and futile task again, Camus ascribes to him a sense of content acceptance… “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart, “ Camus concludes. “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
A life of a person who cared for others more for himself… who refused until the end to share his pain… of a man for whom service was joy… One must imagine Ethan happy.
One last thing… I shared this up in Fresno- it just kind of came out and seemed so profound… dang, that was good! I thought- I’m going to use that again. Grief is a composite of many emotions, and you are going to feel what you feel. That’s okay. Usually I don’t tell people what to feel because your feelings are your own. Feelings are honest. Feelings are yours and you should let yourself feel what you feel. We are feeling a lot of different emotions. Express these feelings. You can feel sad. Let yourself feel sad. You can feel angry. You have every reason to be angry … even angry at Ethan. It is okay to be angry. You can feel confused. You can feel hurt. If you feel happy, smile. If something is funny, laugh. You can be happy. It is perfectly okay. But you absolutely should not feel guilty. No guilt. No shame. No regret. No blame. Accept the fact that there may be no answers… and if you find yourself wandering into the “what if’s” the “if only’s” or the “would’ve could’ve should’ves”… If you find yourself blaming yourself or anyone else… God Please Stop. Not for a moment. Filter it out.
We have been told that he is playing music in heaven… I believe that. I hope they need a cowbell or brake drum. Whatever instrument is needed, Ethan will learn. (He may not practice much, but he will learn his parts…) And I hope they like Ohki’s Symphony for Hiroshima.
Again thank you all for being here. Be here for each other… laugh a little, and don’t forget to share an Ethanhug with someone, as frequently as necessary, as often as possible.
- Ethan’s Eulogy (sabrofoster.wordpress.com)
- The Biggest Question… Written March 23… 5 days after my son, Ethan died. (sabrofoster.wordpress.com)
- Prose: Some thoughts… because this is a blog. And I could use your help. (sabrofoster.wordpress.com)
- Ethan had been born early… (sabrofoster.wordpress.com)
- Thinking in terms of tomorrow (sabrofoster.wordpress.com)