Owen’s star, number 4 in the Big Dipper

Owen had a number of friends from Boulevard Cinemas, where he worked when he died.  He had only been there a few months, after working for almost a year in two Santa Rosa theaters, but he seemed to really connect with a handful of the Petaluma crew.  Mostly young ladies, by the way.

These friends and I have been writing back and forth on myspace, as that’s where I first set up a site to continue connecting with people who knew him and our older son, Nat.  I knew Owen’s site would be disabled after a certain timeframe in which he did not log on, so I created one to stay in touch -though I’m not your typical myspace participant.  I’m glad I did.

Owen’s 21st birthday would have been on June 13, 2007.  The next day, Claire, one of his Petaluma theater coworkers, posted the following:


happy birthday owen

i miss you.i know it was technically yesterday but whatever. the 13th.  happy 21st birthday i remember you talking about it to me. i was looking at the stars today. in the lion king they say that when someone dies they become a star to watch over us. i decided that if one of the stars were you then you would be the corner star of the big dipper, the one thats part of the handle and the cup thing. because its not attention grabbing but without it, the whole thing is nothing. so i liked that one for you.
i was working door last night and the paper that has all the times on it is stuck in the ticket box again and i remember when you watched door for me one time and got it stuck in there. but then of course you saved the day and got it out and i was excited.
i think about when that guy called you super owen after i flagged you down to light his ciggarette.
happy birthday super owen.
r.i.p. i miss you everyday


I met a couple of Owen’s other Petaluma theater friends at Peet’s Coffee one Saturday morning, a few weeks after Owen passed.  We got our coffees and walked down to the river, about a block away.  We sat in the sun for over two hours reminiscing, sharing Owen stories.  They are young.  They have not lost many people through death yet – none for one of the young ladies, and the second, for the other.  They were both at his memorial service, and I felt it might be good for all of us to just sit with the sun, the river, coffee, and memories.  It was.  Thank you, Stephanie and Cailie.

I had brought along a couple of pictures of Owen for each of them.  There was one of Owen at age 16, and one at age 20.  Stephanie put her copies away immediately.  Cailie set her copies on top of her journal.  As Owen would have choreographed this event, the wind came up suddenly, and Cailie’s pictures blew off her journal, which was sitting on her lap.  They blew across the sidewalk, and the picture of him at age 20, flipped right into the river.  To me, it appeared she was distraught over this.  I assured her that Owen would be laughing his ass off, thinking how we might get the hebejebe’s over his 20-year-old picture flipping itself into the river in which his body was found…at age 20.  I wrote her after that day, and shared with her, how OWEN this was.  I hope she got it.  I printed another copy and left it at the theater for her a few days later.  She thanked me.  I hoped she laughed and was able to enjoy his message.

That same Saturday morning, Stephanie told me about the Big Dipper star that Claire had designated as Owen’s.  Dave and I look for it every night now.  Claire was right.  It’s the fourth star, whether you count from the edge of the ladle, or the handle.  There are seven stars, if you’re not familiar with the constellation, so no matter where you start counting, from the ladle end, or the handle end, the fourth star is the same.  (If you are a mathematician, you already figured this out.  I am not.  I had to count it out the first night, after hearing this story, and continue to count it each time the sky is clear enough to see it.  OCD, anyone?)

In numerology, which Owen was exposed to by Lea, his godmother, each number represents positive and negative traits.  These are the positive traits of the number 4:  Strong sense of order and values, struggle against limits, steady growth, highly practical, scientific mind, attention to detail, foundation for achievement, a genius for organization, fine management skills.   And, these are the negative traits of the number 4:  Lack of imagination, caught up in detail, stubborn fixed opinions, argumentative, slow to act, too serious, confused.

Owen did, and most of us can, relate to all of these traits, but unless you apply them in an ordered (or disordered) fashion, they just become more information about which we get to pick and choose our preferences.  The only trait Owen did not obviously represent, was “lack of imagination” but perhaps there were places in his life, that exhibited this, and I just don’t know what those places might have been.  

After all, I’m his mother, so he wouldn’t have shared everything with me (however, I was amazed at the things he DID share – I certainly would have kept some of this information from my own mother!).  I’ve read his journals, and examined his drawings.  I don’t see it.  Maybe he lacked imagination in seeing past the “struggle against limits” mentioned in the positive traits.  I can’t ask him now, so I’ll never know, for sure.

While I always saw Owen as a bright star, he did not like being in the limelight.  He did not like to be the center of attention.  He did, however, like to be recognized for his brilliance, his strong awareness of absurdities, and his love of words and their power. 

That fourth star in the Big Dipper is less bright than the other six.  I believe he would have been happy to be the one star that must be searched for, knowing it was the glue, the one that held it all together.  Or, he would have thought us all full of shit for putting so much effort into figuring out why he had to leave us prematurely.  And, all the more, for assigning meaning to his life, when he knew all along, that this thing that is so important to all of us – life as we know it – was nothing more than a “grand experiment” as he called it.

I love the fourth star of the Big Dipper.  I love the night sky.  I love messages from beyond.  Owen gives me all of these gifts on a nightly basis.  And, sometimes, he gives me these gifts in the middle of an otherwise mundane day, while waiting for the sun to set, and the night sky to appear.  Thank you, Owen Riley.


~ by Linda on August 23, 2007.

4 Responses to “Owen’s star, number 4 in the Big Dipper”

  1. No cliches. Just words from an old friend who is sending good thoughts, Gary

  2. So beautiful.

  3. Someone came into Caps last night, and showed us all at my table the picture of his son. It was an ultrasound of his son that was just taken, an inside-mommy’s-belly close-up of the tiny fingers, and the little guy was doing the thumbs-up sign. REALLY doin’ it, hand folded, thumb straight up in the air… I couldn’t help but smile. As his soon-to-be parents were probably beside themselves with worry and stress about any minute bringing him into this world, it was like his little message… “Yo, mom and dad! Chill! Everything’s gonna be just fine…” Kids want their parents to be happy, it shows them that being happy is important…
    We could learn a lot from kids, if they only we had the ability to speak their language, the language that we have since forgotten…

  4. I was alittle bothered at first, when the picture of Owen blew into the river, however after you mensioned it and the more I thought about it, it made more sence that it did seem very Owen that it happened. Thanks again for the replacement of the picture.

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