Note: Stephen Alan Person, one of my very good friends, passed away from injuries sustained in a drunk driving incident on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. I’ve been trying to write about him since it happened, but it’s been so difficult. This is my first attempt, some assorted thoughts on the passing of a special man who touched a lot of lives. Stephen, I miss you so much. I can’t wait for all of the adventures we’ll have again someday. You’re in my thoughts always.
Stephen was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. I feel like people tend to say these things about their friends upon their passing, and maybe it’s always true, but I feel like this case is particular. It would take more than the fingers of two hands to count all the times Stephen showed up in random places, when I was with random groups of people, and there was never an awkward moment. He got along with everyone, it was so easy, and everyone loved him. I have so many stories about him, with him. That’s what I keep holding on to.
At one point, back when we first met, we decided we were going to write a radio drama. I think I was really into radio dramas at the time. One day when we were sitting in his living room in that ridiculous house on Patterson Alley and came up with CONSTITUTIONBOT, a character for our radio show who is a robot programmed to enforce the constitution. I remember Stephen in the backyard pantomiming stiff arms saying, “I AM DUE PROCESS” in a robot voice. I can hear it and I can hear him laugh about it. It makes me laugh.
And the time we drove down to the bay for spring break in 2010 and he taught us all how to play “Cows On My Side.” And we went to In-N-Out and he ate a ridiculous amount of hamburger and we sat on the roof of my car and smoked cigarettes. When I got us lost in San Francisco on the way to Oddsac but then Stephen hung out with Avey Tare in a bar anyway.
See, Stephen could get himself into the craziest situations. He always met the band, he was always on the list, the bands always stayed at his house. When I first moved to Portland, he was pretty much the only dude I hung out with. We stood in front of Old Wives Tales protesting the poor management. We ate burritos and played ping pong and sat in his backyard. I ran into him all over town. When I was visiting Portland last April for the interview that landed me my current job, I realized I only had my presentation in Google Docs and not on a thumb drive, and what if the office didn’t have internet? So Stephen and I went to the Duck Store in the White Stag building, bought a thumb drive, went up to the fourth floor studio and used one of the computers to put the presentation on it. He rode the MAX with me to my interview, gave me a quick squeeze and a “Good luck!” and headed on his way. He was the first person to text me after my interview to see how it went. He was the first person I texted when I got the job, the job I still have today that has propelled me forward in my career. Without Stephen, it may never have happened.
I started writing this last week, before his memorial, and now that I’ve listened to so many of his friends and people close to him, I realize that we all have these stories. Stephen loved all of us for exactly who we are. He found the things we love about ourselves and made those the things important. He celebrated our successes and helped us move past our failures. Stephen never judged me. Stephen was always there for me. Stephen was our biggest cheerleader. And we are all better for that.
At the end of the memorial, when I was tired of trying to cry quietly in my seat, I stepped outside and listened to some of the old voicemails Stephen had left me. Some of them were silly, some involved descriptions of what he was looking at while he was leaving the message. A staggering number of them are they same: “Hey Lyzi, this is Stephen. I, ah, haven’t seen you in a few weeks and was wondering how you’ve been, if you wanna kick it. So, ah, call me back!” Stephen cared so much about his friends, he went out of his way to make sure he spoke to us regularly. To make sure he was at every show. To celebrate the things about us that are special. He noticed every one of them.
I want to live my life like Stephen lived his: letting people know he cared about them, talking to strangers, telling jokes, helping out, being honest, being true, never being bored, never giving up, always learning, always creating, growing, giving. In his life, Stephen changed mine. I miss him so much, but I know he’s still around us all the time, every time we help out a friend, every time we make up a silly song, and every time we stop a stranger on the street, asking him to tell us a joke.