Vancouver’s beloved up-and-coming chef at Butter on the Endive, Owen Lightly, passed away in May of 2014, two days before his 32nd birthday. On the one-year anniversary of his passing, his dear partner in business and in life, Naomi Horii, reflected on grieving the loss of a loved one, and now shares those thoughts with MONTECRISTO. Above is a series of photos, in which she wears Owen’s clothing.
I sit in a quiet house, where I watch the light move across the room. A whole day goes by at this pace. Then a year goes by. I am a series of “I am” statements that dissipate into nothing, and I am nowhere I recognize. I put on his shirt, and my skin is never closer to him. I button it up, and go inside the country of grief. No roadway out, no map, just the worn texture of the cotton, around the elbows, the place where it sat on the back of his neck gathering his scent. The forever creased cuffs where he used to fold them up before washing the morning dishes. Putting on his sunglasses to leave for work, he’d kiss me and say, “K babe, I love you, I gotta go.” I remember the joyful things, how he loved, the way, with his beautiful arms, he squeezed lightness out of me. But in the country of grief, all those memories hurt.
Nothing can prepare you for the country of grief after losing your loved one. Nothing. There is nowhere you can go to find what you’re looking for. There is nowhere you are from; you are simply in it. Inside the place where there is nothing. I self-talk my way through in disbelief: He’s not there. He’s gone. I put on his jacket, his sweater, his favourite t-shirt, and my skin is never closer to him.