An open letter to Kirst

I believe that photographs can be and often should be used as a vehicle through which photographers can talk about their influences, thoughts, highs and lows and so on. I’ve told photographers in the past that when times are tough, use your camera to help you voice those troubles. I also believe actually doing that can take some balls at times, especially when you’ve a niggling doubt that not everyone looking on will see such voices as a good thing, more as a means to exploit vulnerabilities and twist the knife.

So it’s with some doubt that I want to do this, post photos online and talk about low times as a way of voicing my thoughts surrounding the recent passing of one of my closest friends Kirst. A few weekends ago, I stood on a hill overlooking Auckland and said my goodbyes, joined by a few people very close to me. It’s here that I want to acknowledge Moppie for his support and for reading some words at Kirst’s funeral – I doubt you’ll ever know how big a deal that is to me.

The image below is Kirst and I a few years ago, an image taken by an ex, one I had to steal off Facebook as I don’t have my own copy, turned out to be the last decent image of both of us, where one of us wasn’t behind the camera. Below that is the open letter I read out that day I said goodbye, and some more photos. Here I’d normally say enjoy, but I guess this time it’s thanks for listening, and I hope you learn a little bit more about an incredible woman.

“I wanted to be able to speak to you Kirst, and to tell you all the things I didn’t get chance to say, and to tell you all the things I think you should know. I’m not sure I believe that you’ll ever hear these words, but I know you did, and I know if I say them out loud it will help.

I am sat here now with you on top of this hill knowing this is where you spiritually lay. Knowing that people tried to make that more complicated than it needed to be, but if your home is where your heart is, then as I read this I’m sat beside you. I couldn’t be by your side at your funeral and I’m sorry. I was off making my own memories with people that love me, and as much as I know you loved me too, I also know that once you’d decided to check out, you would have wanted me to continue making my own memories. That decision sits well with me, I know you would have approved.

Yet there are many things I find difficult to take. You know every time we sat across from one another talking about all those painful things we daren’t admit to anyone else, that you simply couldn’t look me in my face and tell me that you’d lost all hope and mean it. Our friendship was the truest of things in that we never had to hide, we could call each other out, take the piss from one another, tell each other those brutal truths. And in that we had our greatest strengths. Which is what makes me wonder, somewhat selfishly I know, but when you’ve obviously been so very good at hiding little truths from those you love, if it isn’t a coincidence you took your life when I was away.

You always reached out and I always answered. When I did the same, you never once complained – the love you brought people was unreserved and never held back. And it’s for this that I want to apologise.

I thought I was being smart, I thought all that stuff I know about understanding the mind meant I was equipped enough to help you. And yet when I tried to modify how I helped you to aide you in breaking those vicious cycles you went through, and to help you travel down new healthy paths in your mind, it backfired. I thought I was being clever by holding back, but it just wasn’t the way you worked, and I sit here on this hill right now talking to your shadows wishing you were here and knowing that there’s only one way I can answer that eternal question: ‘Could I have done more?’

I could have done something more. I could have been a better friend. I could have handled that little bit more mess in my own mind to accomodate yours. I could have been on the end of that phone, sat across from you in your home and stared you in the face as only we could and told you there was still hope. I failed you.

The day you decided enough was enough the world lost a beautiful soul. No one could crack a smile like you. No one could quote back the most random facts at you, only provable by an encyclopaedic knowledge of the internet from before the web was cool like you. No one your size could give such good bear hugs. No one gave like you. No one flitted from one flight of fancy to another quite like you. No one had that unique heart of yours. You were one in a billion and more and you deserved nothing but complete happiness, I can’t help but sit here and think that had I given more you might be here to keep imparting your ways on those that love you.

Because there were many. Everyone you touched was left a better person. My own journey into a new world in NZ was a leap of faith, and from day one when I landed you were there to catch me. You’ve helped make my world the way it is and sat here right now I don’t know how I continue on that journey without you at my side. You are part of me and I don’t know how I work without that bit inside – you’re family.

My own funeral for you has been two-fold. Given that I have no idea if I believe in life after death, it’s ironic that the fitting way to hold them both has been where ashes have been spread. I took lillies to Ashover Rock where the ashes of my mother and her parents are spread. It’s where my father’s ashes will be spread, and probably my own one day. It’s as sacred a place for my family as there can be and I took you there with me. It seemed the right thing to do – you’re the kind of person they’d have all been proud to know. And now I sit here beside you where your soul blows on the wind I feel I can be with you again and say goodbye. I don’t know if there’s afterlife, but if there is, here’s where I’ll come so we can hang out and go cause our own little brand of mischief again.

I love you Kirst. The bottom fell out of my world when I heard you’d gone and it still hasn’t come back. When I looked at you I saw you as my big sister, and I saw parts of myself. You were a creative, beautiful and fragile creature and things got too much – I am beyond broken thinking that people in my life have helped me where I failed you and didn’t help enough. There was more. There was an option.

I’m so, so sorry I didn’t do enough.

I want you back. I know I can’t have you – none of us can. I spent an hour with Blair recently and we ended unable to look one another in the eye, knowing we can’t do that with you breaks us both. I spoke with your sister and she misses you so much. It breaks us all in half that you’re gone. I have to take consolation in the knowledge as I wake in a sweat at night picturing how you died as the fact knowing you possessed everything I have. It’s painful but it just proves it was real.

I’m glad I knew you. It’s a privilege I’ll brag about to anyone that will listen til I die. I’m glad your torture has stopped and that now you get to run upon the breeze with that smile of yours.

I miss you, I miss you, I miss you. I’ll love you forever.

Your friend,


Some images from where her ashes were spread.

Some images from August 2009 when Kirst sat for my book project – strange that I read a lot more into these now.

RIP Kirst.