Rest in Peace, dear Ardessa

The first time we met was a challenge. Not a metaphorical challenge, or some kind of intellectual test with no ultimate meaning, it was an actual test. It was September 1994 and her downstairs neighbour and former roommate had had the temerity to return to Montreal with some kind of lover. To Ardessa, this was permitted – but would nevertheless require her approval.

So I was sitting in a strange apartment one street over from my new place wearing unfortunate khaki pants (which were never worn again) and a plaid button-down shirt (which was), sitting on a student-style futon that had been folded into its “couch” position. There was a big bottle of Chilean screwcap wine on the floor in front of me and I was holding a water tumbler full of the wine, looking up at this person standing before me, with blonde hair everywhere, and whose face alternated between nervous laughter and eyebrow-knitted interrogation as she tried to figure out who was this boy that N had brought home.

I passed the test, I suppose, and thus began a friendship with one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Whose friendship changed my life in ways that I didn’t understand then and never got the chance to tell her later. Who, I found out this morning at 6am, has passed away far too young.

We were never lovers – we never even made out (which is kind of surprising, if you knew Ardessa), and her friend N and I didn’t last very long as a couple (though we remained friends for a time). But for the next couple of years Ardessa became a great friend and, for a time, a constant companion. I was about 5 years older than everyone (at an age when 5 years was significant) so I was always a bit of an outsider with the group, but never with Ardessa.

Among the amazing group of artists and poets and singers who orbited her, Ardessa was always the brightest star. And she made sure that was the case, though not in an obnoxious way. Once she decided someone was a friend, that was that… at least until it wasn’t. Because when she broke with people, she broke with them completely – though to her credit she never (to my knowledge) used this as a weapon of manipulation.

She gave me a lot, this strange friend of mine. I look back and I was so naive and unsure of myself, just a young adult muddle of urges who was trying to succeed while slipping free of some of the expectations that had been placed upon him, with only a vague understanding of who I was or what I wanted. I carried myself with a lot more confidence than that – but that someone so completely given over to her art not only accepted me but liked me and sought me out… well, it gave me a confidence that I really needed.

Really, Ardessa had a kind of magic inside of her, and nurtured all of the magic around her – and if she couldn’t see the magic in a person, she either brought it out of them or… well there was no second option. I was always worried for her, this magical friend, because what happens to a person when there just isn’t any magic around? As far as I know, she never found that out. I hope she never did.

And so I have lived differently because Ardessa was in my life, because she helped me to see how awesome a life with a little magic could be. To a small extent I still measure up new experiences and people by asking “What would Ardessa think?” Not because I need her approval – it’s more subtle than that. It’s just that things just seem brighter and better when the Ardessas of the world (few as they are) are enthusiastic about them. And so if you’ve had the privilege of calling a woman named Ardessa “friend” that brightness and joy is something to be sought, or to feel guilty for not having sought when you lapse into the mundane or the typical.

So… be at peace, dear Ardessa. I’ll always miss you.


  1. Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to Ardessa, my precious niece. She will surely be missed.

  2. Marcus Cobbledick says:

    Beautiful words Michael.
    Ardessa certainly did posess the natural ability to bring out the ‘magic’ in someone.
    Over the past couple of days it has really hit home how many other fortunate people she touched in this way. She represents an angel like figure to me now more than ever.

  3. Ardessa
    I look at this blank page and as I write, I hope and wonder if the words that follow will pay proper homage to the beautiful soul that touched all of our lives. Adressa was a rare being. I say this from my own personal interactions with fellow humans in this realm, but I think most who’ve experienced Ardessa share this sentiment. Ardessa was to be experienced. Be it a brief encounter or a lifelong lover she was an experience that penetrated the core of our being, our heart. The heart yearns for love, beauty and humour in this world and Ardessa invoked and evoked these, she emanated these, she was these, she IS these. This is why I believe her to be a rare being. Rarely does one create and express the beauty and mystery of life on the scale that she did. Rarely does one make lasting impressions and enduring friendships with so many people in the many cities she lived. Rarely can one person make you feel that special, that loved…a rare being indeed. We are all blessed to be a part of her life, rather her life be a part of ours. Hope lucky are we?
    The first time I saw Ardessa was just that, a sighting. Twenty years ago. I was walking past a restaurant with a patio where she was seated with a friend. Our eyes locked and we shared a smile. It was a smile from a face that was so familiar to me. A face I had seen a thousand lives before, but I continued on my way, somehow knowing absolutely that I would meet this woman again in the not so distant future. The future caught up mere weeks later when I saw her again, this time at The Commodore. I can’t recall who played that night and it didn’t matter because Ardessa was the headliner. I was smitten and carried away. Unfortunately for me, the feeling was not mutual. She was convinced that I was a swindler and a sweet talker and wanted nothing to do with me. Did I mention Ardesssa was a great judge of character? Seeming suspect in my pursuits, I was never more sincere and would not leave the bar without her phone number! My pleading fell on deaf ears but the few Monalisa smiles she would offer me hinted at maybe I was not as bad as she was convincing herself. Alas, the end of the night neared and I was no closer to getting her number so I implored a friend of hers. As hopeless I thought the idea, but it worked! Convincing the friend that Ardessa was a long lost soul mate, and we were destined to meet again in this life. That was no line from a sweet talking swindler. I knew it implicitly and I meant it. The next day I called her and the rest is history.
    Since that day she has been my lover, my sister, my brother, my mother and my best friend. There will be no other. Her passing has left a crater in me, and the world a little emptier. I’m still weighing her passing. Still adjusting to this void we all feel. One thing we can all take solace in is that we were all blessed to know her and love her and be loved by her. To me, it is a gift. Of the countless gifts she created and shared with everyone, it was her presence and relationship that was the greatest gift of all. How lucky are we? We are the luckiest.
    “you know what is fucking funny. i have been obsessively thinking of you too. looking at photos. watching your videos. shit. i wish you could come over for dinner and we could fuck unicorns together. well, you know what i mean. you are my brother. for life. for real. and one of my heroes. LOVE a”