Six years have passed -- it took two years to finally be able to see a future for myself again and four years to come to a point of acceptance.
The vision of a fairytale life diminished in my 19-year-old eyes, when my high school sweetheart was diagnosed with cancer. He died within the month.
Gone were three years of building dreams and a promising future filled with love and adventure. Gone was any hope.
Six years have passed — it took two years to finally be able to see a future for myself again and four years to come to a point of acceptance.
All I know is it was a privilege to have been part of his life, for he taught me everything I now know about what it means to love another human being and how it feels to be loved in return.
Here are the lessons I have learned on the journey, in loving memory of a boy who truly lived:
1. Say I love you
If you feel a particular way at any moment, acknowledge it. Share it with the people you love. If you feel grateful, say, “Thank you,” and if you feel love, say, “I love you.”
Though people believe when you say it so often, the words lose their meaning, I’ll never get to say it to him again.
What are we all waiting for? Just say it! There is no such thing as the "right time." The right time could pass you by.
2. Communicate more openly
There were many things left unsaid because it was scary to open up and talk about feelings, especially those involving death. I knew he was terrified of dying, but I wish we spoke about it more.
Talking to people and sharing my thoughts and emotions definitely helped me grieve. It releases a lot of pent-up tension and mental anxiety. You don’t have to deal with everything on your own. People are willing to listen.
3. Listen carefully
We should all take the time to listen to one another more often. Sometimes, emotions are screaming to be heard. Lending an ear to someone is one of the best ways to be there.
It’s so easy to slip into our unconscious worlds, especially with the distractions of technology and social media. If you listen enough, you might hear something that could save a person’s life.
4. Respect one another
Respect is something that is cultivated and nurtured over time. You can show someone your respect by valuing his or her opinions and decisions, and treating him or her with fairness and care.
I respected my partner’s decision to not undergo stem cell chemotherapy; he knew his body would not cope with the procedure. He expected me to debate with him and fight for him to try the treatment, but I respected his decision because he knew his body better than I did.
I already watched him endure an immense amount of pain. It was his will, and I did my best to understand.
5. Pay attention to the little things
If you blink, you’ll miss them. There were so many moments I took for granted that came flooding back, long after he was gone. The importance of being present around the ones you love can never be overstated.
It’s the little moments that count. Savor them.
6. Support each other's dreams
I always go back to the late nights, when we sat outside in his car and talked about the dreams we had for our future. He wanted to be this crazy entrepreneur with his own gym and airline, and I believed he was crazy enough to do it.
He’d encourage me to start teaching in my garage and planned ways we could draw students into my classroom.
He always found ways to make me better, rather than allow me to believe in my insecurities of not being capable or good enough.
It means the world when the people you love most believe in you and want to help you achieve your goals. Your dreams may change over time, but how powerful they felt in that moment will last forever.
7. Take care of your body
We’ve all heard this one: Your body is your temple. We know it, and yet, not all of us treat our bodies with such care.
Even after losing him to cancer, I struggled to love and nurture my body. I put it under a lot of stress and put on a lot of weight. I’ve come to love it a lot more now by making sure I eat well and exercise often. I make it a routine.
My partner was also a fit guy. The pace at which cancer deteriorated his body was frightening, as cancer thrives in younger bodies. But, it reminded me that it's necessary to stay strong and healthy to live well.
8. Do what you love
It is not worth it to live day-in and day-out doing things that make you sad and tired. That’s just another way to put your health in decline.
My partner was a living testament of the importance in doing what you love. Even in his sick and frail state, he refused to give up his love for sports.
It’s not advisable to push yourself to the limits when you are not well enough to do so, but he made sure he played that last game of footy with the boys while he could.
When you do what you love, it makes your heart sing. It gives you passion and purpose.
9. Dream big
Life is too short, right? We fear dreams that are bigger than us; we fear failure without even trying, and we fear success before even getting there. That’s a lot of fear in which to live.
I miss his fearlessness and his ability to boldly declare something as outrageous as being the next Richard Branson.
He never got the chance to fulfill these dreams, as his life got cut short. Only then did I realize that my days are numbered, too. How do I make them count?
10. Love unconditionally
If you’re going to love, don’t just do it in bits and pieces. Love fully, open your heart up completely and embrace every moment.
Though you run the risk of getting hurt, you'll never feel the entire beauty of love in its purest form without doing so.
Love as much as you can so you’ll never feel the regret of not having loved enough. Loving him gave me the greatest joy, and being loved by him was the greatest blessing.