Be a beacon of light

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The new year saw the passing of Seth Howard, 24, a drummer of Jacksonville-based metal band Yashira. Howard went to Ridgeview High School and graduated from the University of Florida last year.

I interviewed Yashira for another publication in 2016. Howard lived in Gainesville, so he couldn’t make it to the interview, but his bandmates spoke of him as an affable guy, extremely talented and the “glue” of the band.

“He’s sporadic and goofy, and we wouldn’t have him any other way,” guitarist and vocalist Connor Anderson told me.

I’m a few steps removed from Seth, though I still feel I knew him because I knew so many people who knew him. I never saw Yashira perform, unfortunately I had to leave early in 2017 when they played in Five Points, but I listened to them on Spotify even after I wrote the story.

Drummers can be seen in a multitude of ways. My Blood Valentine’s Colm Ó Cíosóig functions as a metronome for their droning, distorted guitars, while Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham’s drumming has a personality of its own that can overshadow the Plant/Page axis at times, especially on the “Led Zeppelin IV” closer, “When the Levee Breaks” or “Out on the Tiles.” For Seth, and most metal bands, his drumming is a backbone, unrelenting and vicious, which fades into the background, but when it hits you it really hits you.

I ran into the band’s vocalist/bassist Luke Barber at a bar a few months back and he was glowing about the bands’ prospects. They tour across Florida and the East Coast regularly and their music, such as 2018 album, “Shrine” or the 2016 extended play, “We Find Ourselves in the Grief of Others” receives reviews from the larger metal magazines and websites.

So, when I received the Florida Highway Patrol press release detailing his death, I was floored. I didn’t interview the members of Yashira or go to Seth’s family’s house with a camera for a quick story out of respect. Howard’s death was picked up by most of the prominent music publications like the Alternate Press, Consequence of Sound and Loudwire. These things should be handled delicately, these stories aren’t easy to write.

Social media has a lot of downsides, but after Seth’s passing, I watched the number of heartfelt tributes grow. There was a combination of pain over the timing of the crash and the love and respect people had for him, often both.

“I love him and miss him so much,” wrote Yashira’s guitarist Dylan Mikos. “I know he knew how much I cared about him and I find a sliver of peace in that, but I will never fully grasp this.”

It’s jarring when someone dies so young. Seth was less than a year older than me. In high school, a sophomore named Adrian Garcia died in a similar situation, a head-on crash on a two-lane road I drove on every day.

You go through stages with grief: One where the death is the only thing you think about, though with each day the grief ebbs away. There’s the, “It could have been me” stage. In another stage, everything is viewed carefully, life plans and you may become more idealistic or bitter due to the impact of the death.

One of the last stages is when the memory of the person crystallizes, and they become a memory or an idea. I can’t help thinking back to Leo Tolstoy trying to remember his dead mother’s face through his character Nikolenka in his novel, “Childhood.”

“So many memories of the past arise when one recalls the features of somebody, we love

that one sees those features dimly through the memories, as though through

tears.”

In the obituary, Seth’s family described him as a “Beacon of Light.” A college instructor of mine gave this advice to her younger self: “Be kind, slow down, write more.” Feel free to substitute the last part with any hobby. I think that’s how you be remembered the way Seth was. That’s how I think you can be a beacon of light when you pass on.

The third verse of 2pac’s “Thugz Mansion” is the best, where Tupac fraternizes with Marvin Gaye, Malcolm X and watches Billie Holiday sing. In a lyric mirroring Tolstoy, Tupac wants you to remember his face. Let’s apply “Thugz Mansion” to all genres. Say hi to John Bonham for me Seth.

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