by Ashley Honea

May 14, 2005

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Nearburg,

First and foremost, I want to tell you that I have always loved your son. He was an amazing soul, who touched my life from the very first time his beautiful, but frail, smile graced my presence. You may or may not remember me, but I visited Rett several times when he was in the hospital, and we had so many other meetings, at fashion show fundraisers, at camps, retreats, and so much more. My name is Ashley Honea, and I met Rett at Camp Esperanza, so many years ago that I barely remember how long it has been (though I want to say it was possibly ’97 or ’98).

Rett and I had such an amazing friendship. We weren’t inseparable, or else I wouldn’t have doubted your knowing me, but we had a connection of souls that could never be described with words. I recall so many nights, staying up til 3 or 4 am, either on the phone or messaging on the internet, sharing every last thought and energy that passed through us. My mother told me so many times, “You better marry that boy,” but it wasn’t like that between us; we loved each other in a very different way. But like so many other relationships, Rett and I let ours fade away when times got tough, and we moved on without any qualms, always knowing we’d find our way back to each other when the time came.

I recently had the most fortuitous opportunity of a lifetime, when I ran into Rett yet again, this time at a Planet Cancer retreat in the fall of 2004. This was God’s way of allowing me to have one last unforgettable memory of Rett. As soon as I saw him, I grabbed him in the biggest hug of a lifetime. I wish I had never let go.

I know that Rett suffered so much during his lifetime. But I also know that he lived one of the fullest 21 years of anyone I have ever met. I know from my own experiences with cancer, that the one benefit you receive from such a horrific and traumatic event such as this one, is that you begin to truly see and understand the value of a moment, of a day, of each time you see someone’s face; you truly see them, not as life would have you see it, but as a person who knows that the end is coming, at any time, and that you are only allowed to spend what you have — no more, no less.

I cried today as I found out (though I was possibly one of the last people to find out) about Rett’s passing. But as I cried, I felt a wave of calm pass over, knowing that as much as I would personally miss Rett, he is and will be in a much better place; a place without suffering, without sadness, a place where he can truly just be himself. I know that he would not want me to be sad for him, but I would like to pass on my condolences to you, as belated as they may be, to let you know that there are so many people that Rett touched; his life was not lived in vain.

I will always feel the touch of Rett’s life on my own. My deepest regret is that I let our lives pass us by once again, only to be slapped in the face with the most important reality that I once thought life had shown me — that you cannot allow one moment to pass, thinking that you may get it back. Cancer showed me that once, Rett has once again reminded me — in the way that he always does, always having to prove his point, even to his grave, as he always told me he would — because life showed that to him. My love for Rett will never die, as I know so many others’ will neither. If there is anything, anything at all, that I can do, that I can relate, please let me know.

Again, my deepest condolences go out to your entire family — Dana, Charles, and of course Anna as well. I wish that I had been able to know you as well as I knew Rett himself. He was an incredibly wonderful person, as I’m sure you always wanted him to be. Thank you for allowing the world to experience his life lessons and love. It will never be the same.

With deepest sympathies and great love,

Ashley Honea and family, Dean and Kay Honea