This past week has been one of emotional roller-coasters and whirlwind thoughts. It has been a week of hugs. It has been a week of more than usual wondering about so many things.
- Why is life so very short? This past week one of my best friends lost his father. The amount of support that their family has received has been incredible, but that doesn’t make it better. How do you watch a young family go through such a trial? As I hugged his mother and younger siblings, I tried to understand something that seemed just out of my grasp. Because of my religious beliefs, I know that this is not the end. I know that their family will be together again. That is a kind of assurance that so many people lack in these days. But that wasn’t what I was trying to figure out. We go through life, and in all of the ups and downs, when you are in the moment it doesn’t always seem like life goes very fast. Especially in the downs, when you look around you and wonder if it will ever end. And then suddenly you look back and realize that it is all gone, that it all left without you really noticing. I used to try and focus on living in the moment, but now I don’t know if that is really the answer. My friend’s father left behind a wonderful family, a wonderful legacy, a whole community of people that cherished his presence in their life. Perhaps it is more of what we decide to hold onto, instead. Because no matter where we live on our personal timeline, life is just too short.
- What will I leave behind? I think that experiencing death so close to us makes us all wonder things like this. The best people we know always seem to be the ones that go first. But perhaps that is because they already had it figured out, and it’s our turn now. But this man in particular has always been such a source of strength and pure passion for living. During my high school years, I was avidly involved in the theater department. That was how I became so close to this good friend of mine. His father was an amazing actor, an amazing source of inspiration. He came to the theater often and helped us with our competitive pieces or with our shows. He became like a second coach to us, the ones I call my second family. No matter our distresses, we knew he would be there to help us get through it. He helped us see the potential not only in ourselves, but in others. He helped us understand the big picture of what we were working on. Through his passion for theater he taught us all so much more. He passed on an essence that I have trouble communicating. Something about loving life, about dreaming, about living, about a passion for what we do. I suppose that in the end, what he taught us wasn’t necessarily about voice inflections, gestures, or stage presence. It was about creating something beautiful within ourselves that would enrich our lives and that we could pass on to others.
- What do any of our lives really mean? Again, this is something that often comes with the territory of losing a loved one. But I’ve been thinking about it on a slightly different level than the immediate reaction you have. As I’ve stated, religion is huge here. You know that religion is very prominent in my life. I believe that I know why we are here, what we are doing, and where we have the potential to go. So, in essence, I believe that I know what our lives mean and what our purpose is. But that isn’t really where I’ve been going with this question. This man made his life mean something wonderful and inspiring to everybody he knew. He accomplished great things, he knew so much, he was overflowing with meaning. I don’t know if his life turned out the way he’d always planned or if he accomplished all of his dreams. But he was happy, and you knew it. He never stopped dreaming, you could tell. He loved his family, he loved his passions, he loved life. He had meaning.
- Where do we go from here? Absolutely anywhere. If there was one feeling that this man inspired, it was passion to go anywhere and accomplish anything. You could present him with your loftiest dreams and desires, and he would encourage you to reach them. He never gave you the impression that it would be easy, but only that it would be worth it once you got there. So much pain and sadness has already been felt by his family and the entire community, and it will always be felt. But even being in this man’s presence you felt invincible. You felt unconquerable. You felt as if you could go anywhere and do anything, and you could do it well and love it. You could find happiness and joy.
There is a moment in my mind, a few seconds of memory, that I have never forgotten. It is etched on my mind forever, something that is unforgettable:
Standing on the stage at Guys and Dolls dress rehearsal, the final scene. Surrounded by my second family, singing the final song. And there he sat on the front row, his notes and pen abandoned, singing his heart out. And I thought to myself, “Wow. I want to be like that someday.”
Farewell, and thank you so much.