Ryan Widger discussing his Fulbright year in Sweden doing photography. I remember your brilliance, humor, and our endless conversations about art and life.
One Funeral Listing After the Next
You were focused, thoughtful, and determined–-an art star in the making. And so you went to Sweden to explore the light as the scholar that you were.
Two weeks ago today, after years of no contact, I finally decided to reach out to you. But when I tried going onto your website, your page was gone and your domain name was for sale. I did a Google search for you. The first five hits were funeral home notices.
You passed away on June 2, 2016, in your house. You left behind a partner, a two-year-old daughter, a sister, a brother, and your parents. You left us all behind.
You were born on March 30, a day before me. You were born on the same day as van Gogh, and I was born on the same day as Al Gore, Christopher Walken, and my ex-husband.
We Met in the Dark
You encouraged my direction in my drawings, you helped me during some of my darkest moments, always offering your support, empathy, humor, kindness, and friendship.
So many times I have wanted to reach out to you and to thank you for having been such a good friend to me while I was at UPenn. You encouraged my direction in my drawings, you helped me during some of my darkest moments, always offering your support, empathy, humor, kindness, and friendship.
We met in the darkroom of the university. I quickly learned of your gift for photography. How much I loved your work, and still do. From that first encounter, we were inseparable that first year. Your wisdom informed me that you were an old soul. Your levity and sense of humor told me that you had transcended the challenges of life.
You made me laugh so many times when I desperately needed cheering up.
Then everything changed the following year. My fiancé (now ex-husband) moved to Philly to be near me, and you and I drifted. As graduation neared for the both of us, you told me that you had gotten into Yale for graduate school, but that you had rejected them. You told me this with a smirk on your face. You always followed your heart over status symbols, and that’s what I always admired and loved about you.
You Were on Your Way to Stardom
You were focused, thoughtful, and determined–an art star in the making. And so you went to Sweden to explore the light as the scholar that you were.
Not too long after graduation, you were awarded a Fulbright fellowship. I wanted to emulate you, so I considered applying for a Fulbright to Germany wanting to do an art project about German women in postwar Germany (oh, the ghosts that never leave me–long before I believed in past lives!). My minimal German skills coupled with my insecurities forced me to scrap the idea. But not you–you were brilliant and confident. You were focused, thoughtful, and determined–an art star in the making. And so you went to Sweden to explore the light as the scholar that you were.
Now you’re gone from the physical world and I never got the chance to thank you for all that you had done for me. You even saved me from a catastrophic meltdown once. So I just want to say thank you for making me laugh so many times. Thank you for being goofy and childlike with me when the rest of the world slipped into post 9/11 existential angst. Thank you for constantly inspiring me, and for convincing me to stay engaged with my life. Thank you for helping in too many ways to list here. But most of all, thank you for being you.
I miss you and will never forget you.