To say that learning of Derik Loso’s apparent suicide was deeply shocking to me is not so much an understatement as it is a means for me to exhale. I am in stunned disbelief and feel great sorrow for his family, friends and colleagues, as well as for those of us who walked alongside this gentle soul in earlier years.
I remember Derik first of all as a trusted and sensitive friend, and almost immediately next as a gifted artist and passionate creator. Derik had an immense capacity for love and friendship, and it is my recollection of this that somehow helps me to make sense of his death. I have seen others overcome with life who became suddenly, hopelessly lost – others similar to Derik, who were truly kind and very sensitive and who also burned with a profound, longing affection that burned out too soon. In addition to being a handsome and well-postured gentleman, he was also a man of considerable talent and ability in the area of visual art. From early on (I met him when we were in our late teens, and we were less than three months apart in age) he demonstrated a bold, individual visual style and a sharp, perceptive mind.
The last time I saw Derik, he and another mutual friend from Issaquah had made the long trip from Seattle to Vancouver, Washington, on a Saturday morning to be present at my brief and modest wedding ceremony. I frankly remember little else from that occasion as much as that I recall looking across the small group in attendance, and to my surprise, seeing Derik’s intently loyal expression return my gaze; he nodded reassuringly to say, “I’m here for you.”
The previous time that I had seen Derik moved me a great deal more. Derik and I were both in the groom’s party of our mutual friend’s wedding, for which I had to travel North from Vancouver in order to participate. After the festivities were ended and I was preparing to depart for home, Derik and I talked for a while. It became clear during the conversation that some closure of our old school friendships was occurring, and that we would probably never be as close as frequently as we had been up until then. It was not a childish refusal that I felt from him but rather a true sense of loss, in that this might be the last time we would see each other for a while. I was more than halfway down the road when these same feelings that I had suppressed began to well up – feelings that Derik was determined to share with me in my presence.
We had been close companions, and had spent many an evening together with music, with playing cards and with the usual accouterments of our wilder years. Derik seemed to always have a woman involved romantically in his life – whereas at the time none of us others in our small circle could hardly manage any such commitment. He also worked hard and became strident in independence at a young age – something for which we whom he often entertained at his own apartment were vaguely grateful because it allowed us a place to play. I, for one, was always envious of Derik’s industriousness, his resourcefulness, and his attention to order and style, and I was often amazed at his enthusiasm for his friendships and activities alike; I coveted his energy, which was boundless, and I especially admired his ability to project what he imagined onto paper, and later into three dimensions in Haunted House events and television sets.
As a writer with an often irrepressible tendency to the weird, I would sometimes find Derik’s sense of wit too conventional at times, or too garish at others. However he more than made up for whatever I, in my egocentric way, would find lacking in him with his deft and efficient technique. He was a master cartoonist, and I remember him constantly penciling and inking his way through idea after idea. We collaborated on a few things, and although one might consider them juvenalia I intend to find them in my archives and preserve them for good: particularly memorable was an eight-panel comic strip based on the lyrics of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll.”
I gave him my absurd concept, which capitalized on a fleeting obsession with Al Jolson and transformed into a Satanic Mass. We may have written out the idea to some extent, but in no time he had produced the completed art, and it was absolutely perfect. It ran in the I-Hi Times, our high-school newspaper, along with lots of other stuff he did, including a perfect rip-off of the original “Rolling Stone” masthead for our 1977 lampoon issue, “Issaquah Stone.” His work, I felt – I was convinced, was headed for much bigger and better venues.
I agonize, then, to read that possibly among the issues with which he was struggling in his last days would be the sense of being in a career rut. If there were anyone among the people I was close to in my late teens and early twenties whom I, without reservation, expected to succeed at everything and enjoy it all just as much, that person would have been Derik. And I suppose that tells me a lot about my own feelings of internal and external pressure and the chaos that is sometimes unleashed in my psyche – chaos for which the most drastic resolution somehow resonates as appropriate. Thus I do not condemn the act or the suicidal man, but can only offer sympathy and solace to those left in his wake.
It is apropos of nothing but my ego and my practical tendencies that I was not a better and closer friend to Derik these past twenty or so years since those two weddings. For some time now he has certainly been on my list of folks I’d hoped and tried to connect with as this Internet brings many of us back into each others’ loving arms. What I would give now to have Derik among the people with whom I keep in touch. Regardless of the tragic circumstances surrounding his death, the indelible stamp that he left upon me asks me to believe that Derik had given everything he had and could find no more to give, and that it broke his heart.
Regardless of all the good that exists in this world and in spite of all the love that you gave to it, Derik, my heart is indeed black today as I despair that I must say goodbye, my sweet and beautiful friend.