May 12, 1:13 a.m.
We were getting ready to film at UC Davis when I got this text from Anthony:
Hey, was just thinking about you for some reason
Happy Mother’s Day. I hope everything has been good in your universe. Would love to pick up a copy of your book. Just wanted to let you know you’re an awesome mom and a lot of people could learn from you.
This was the first thing I read when I woke up this past Mother’s Day. In the spirit of the day, I didn’t notice the time. In my distraction of all I had to do, I didn’t notice the subtext. In fact, I wasn’t completely clear until just now as I typed this what exactly was being said. Maybe I wasn’t such an awesome mom in that moment.
There were text words back and forth. I told him when I got back from filming and things calmed down, we’d get together and I’d take him to lunch and bring him a signed book.
Fast forward to this past Friday night. My son Jordan is studying in Italy on a semester abroad and I receive this What’s App message:
12:56 a.m. (day in Italy)
I guess Anthony Flores passed earlier this month. I just saw it on Instagram.
1:53 a.m. (using my cell for bathroom light and reading Jordan’s WA)
How could this be? Was Jordan okay? This was his first peer lost and he was so far away. The book—the lunch. That task, I’m ashamed to say, is still on my “to do” list. I’m more than a little mad at myself that Anthony and I did not get to meet for another meal and that I did not get to give him his signed book. It’s something I will have to live with now. I will not make this misstep again. I wanted to make sure I showed up for both Jordan and Anthony in my next move.
So many emotions swirled. I went to Anthony’s Facebook page and saw his last post. Posted just past midnight on Halloween night, early morning November at 3:27 a.m., it was a meme. In the meme, the Joker was walking into a mental health clinic and it said, “Me finally doing something about my mental health.” In the split screen, it showed a man getting hit by a car with the words “Our next appointment isn’t for another 3 months.” He was in pain, clearly. Then, gone.
His last post was followed by sad, angry, blaming, apologetic, remembering posts from people left scrambling, disoriented by his loss. I felt helpless reading, investigating clues to help my son understand what happened to his friend and process this emotionally from across the big wide ocean, the one that Anthony loved.
Through the posts and through the gathering at the Anderson River Park, and conversations I had there, a pattern emerged that described this beautiful Soul known as Anthony:
This 22-year-old man found beauty in things and captured that beauty while making the things he captured feel seen and beautiful. His tools included his camera, his sketch pencils, and mostly, his words, all of which he used to show others how beautiful they really were at their core. He used his talents to lift others up, even as he struggled to tread water in treacherous storms around him. In those storms, he reached for a life raft in drugs, a strategy that would cost him his life. He was resourceful, charismatic, deep like the sea, authentic, sparkly like the ocean waves in the sun, adventurous, the best hugger, embracing, kind, resilient af, an explorer of land and sea. Born on October 4, 1997 in Whittier, California, he straddled between Northern and Southern California often throughout his life, but adored Laguna Beach, California where we met up with him. He had briefly gone to school with Jordie and they bonded over their love for So Cal. On that day in Laguna, Anthony took Jordan on an adventure, taking cliff and beach photos all day, and finally graciously accepting our Tommy Bahama dinner invitation for him (said it was the nicest placed he’d ever been). He thanked us profusely and said he would take us out one day. That night, he sent me about 10 shots he’d taken of Jordan.
At the gathering to celebrate him, I sat next to a young mother named Brooke who held her daughter, 4-year old-Lila, on her lap. Soft-spoken, I wondered what her favorite memory of Anthony was. I asked her. She said that in high school, he looked over at her and said, “Do you know how beautiful you are?” Then he pulled out a sketch pad and drew her as if to say, “Here. I’ll show you.” She told me this through teary eyes as Lila listened carefully. She hadn’t seen her own beauty until then. I asked her if Anthony was ever able to see his own beauty and she shook her head. Through a throat filled with tears she whispered, “He never had a chance to get there.”
We shared stories for a bit. I gave her a hug and told her I needed to go return to my husband’s birthday. At the mention of birthday, Lila ran to hug me and yelled at the top of her lungs: BIRTHDAY CAKE!!!! I swear Anthony was a walk-in in that very moment.
So, from a mermaid to a merman, Tony, here’s an image to take with you on your journey.
The ocean, the light
There we go, Sweet Soul
Dancing across the waves we play
Free for now of hard lessons
In this in-between space of pure energy
The beauty now I see in me
I see because of you
A donation to The Ocean Cleanup has been made in your name, Anthony Flores, as you loved the ocean more than anything.
Oceans of Love, dear Anthony. Oceans of Love.