Life is pretty fickle. One moment, your biggest concern will be whether to order Chinese food or pizza, and the next moment, you will be rocked by something that comes with no warning.
On an Indian summer day, I was drinking Starbucks and thinking about what I was going to wear out the following night to a party. Just as I was about to take a final sip of caffeinated bliss, I received a text from a good friend from high school:
“Hey, are you busy? I have to tell you something.”
I immediately called to find out what hot gossip I was about to receive. The sentence she uttered was something I still wish was never spoken. In a mousy voice, muffled behind sniffles, she said:
“I just wanted to tell you that Jack passed away this morning.”
I met Jack in high school. We were in a play together where I played the pivotal role of “Firefighter #2.” I had plenty of time off-stage (shockingly, Firefighter #2 was actually not a major character), so I tried to find people to bond with.
Enter Jack: He was a warm, hilarious, intelligent boy who tolerated my annoying backstage antics. From that moment on, our relationship only grew stronger.
We spent four years participating in theatre, sharing and critiquing our writing, driving while listening to The Beatles and, most importantly, consuming gross amounts of food together. He was my favorite aspect of coming home on college breaks.
Now, I would be coming home to nothing. At first, I felt nothing. My numbness must have been my denial.
Then, it hit.
I have never broken a bone and never been seriously physically injured in my life. Still, I know for a fact that the impact of those words was worse than any kind of pain I can ever imagine enduring.
The loss of any life is a sad concept, but it is one that cannot be fully processed until you lose someone whose life you not only knew, but also loved.
I do not think losing a loved one ever fully processes with the ones left behind. Some days, I wake up and think everything is normal, but it doesn’t take long to be reminded that the void is still there.
I could curse out God and the universe for taking away someone who meant so much to me, like a child throwing a tantrum after losing a security blanket. I could let this death kill me, regardless of my beating pulse.
I could wake up every morning, still miss my friend, but use that pain to channel my loss into something positive. When people die, they are not completely gone; they live within every person whose life they impacted.
Jack’s death has enriched me just as much as his life did. He taught me countless lessons while he was on this Earth, and I refuse to let that stop being the case.
Don’t Expect Anything Ever
We can’t wake up knowing what the day will bring to us, but if we say, “I’m going to take in whatever this day has to offer me,” then we already are living life the way we should.
Expectations make us look too far into the distance. Why worry about later when we have the present? We are given a “this or that” choice every minute of every day. We can get out of bed and thrive, or we can draw the blinds and refuse to let sunshine in.
Life can kick our asses, but it will completely obliterate us if we allow it to pin us to the ground.
Live Like It’s The Last Time
A few days before Jack passed away, we were texting and I got caught up in something else. After realizing I hadn't responded to him, I thought to myself, "No big deal; I'll just talk to him later." Sadly, later never came.
Had I known that the last time I saw Jack was going to be the last time I ever saw him, I would have hugged him harder and longer. Had I known the last time I talked to Jack was going to be the last time I ever talked to him, I would have said I love you a hundred more times.
We never know when we're going to take our last breath, so we should live our lives as if this inhale will be our final one. We should strive to never end a conversation in anger, always let people know how much they mean to us and remind ourselves to be thankful.
Never Under-Appreciate The Gift Of Life
I may not be dating John Mayer or have zero college debt, but I have my health, my family and my friends. It’s not everything, but it’s still pretty damn good.
Jack may be gone, but I had four years of friendship with him, and I would never change that for anything. He may be gone, but the impact he made on my life is well worth the pain of losing him. Because of him, I know to love more, hate less and remember that life is a precious gift.
Life Goes On, And Everything Will Be Okay
I don't think a day will go by where I don't think about Jack, but that hasn't stopped me from going to class, going out with friends and living my life. It's not disrespectful to keep living after somebody passes away; in fact, it's what our late loved ones want for us.
When someone you care about loses his or her life, let it make you live yours better. Though we will miss loved ones when they are gone, we can keep them alive by instilling them in our hearts and making sure their legacies never die.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It