On Monday of last week, I received word if a friend’s passing. He was a young man, not yet forty, and his passing was more than unexpected, it was tragically sudden. No foul play, no accident, he just failed to wake up one morning.
Yesterday was his funeral. And the time between learning if his passing and the formal event celebrating his life (that’s how I like to look at funerals) has been one of the most intense emotional roller coasters I have ever endured. I have cried, I have been physically sick, I have been laughing uproariously and I have been number. Sometimes all of these emotions and more tumbled upon each other so quickly that it seemed they were all happening at the same time.
Maybe they were.
Whatever the case, today I woke up and went about my day much as normal. I have grieved, and I’m sure I will have more moments where I grieve his loss anew. But today, I try to carry on.
I met one of our mutual friends this morning, and we talked briefly of the funeral, of his influence in our lives and, for each of us, a profound awareness that our lives are different because he was in them, and different because he is gone.
Personally, I feel left behind. My friend and I had worked together on one life changing project, a theater production that for both him and me was a touchstone in our lives. After that, we worked on parallel projects, never quite having our schedules synch up in a way that allowed us to work together. I was planning on making the next opportunity the one that would.work, no matter the cost. And now, I will never get that chance. Like I said, I feel left behind.
My friend was a man of substance and style. I looked up to him for finding ways to be authentic regarding who he was and what he valued.. He made others in his circle of friends feel loved, appreciated and respected. He looked for the good that they did and inspired them to do more. He was always accepting and, at the same time, encouraging of everyone around him to be better. Smiles, laughter, and passionate disagreement were part of his life and our relationship at various times, but underlying it all was a sense of mutual respect, love and appreciation.
And now he is gone.
But his influence will live on.
In the spirit of my friend, allow me to encourage you to be better. Whether you read this on the day it is first published or decades later, the encouragement to be better is fully in force. Find something that you can do today to be a little better. Be more thoughtful of someone’s struggles. Be more exacting of your completion of a project. Be more present during a moment of relaxation with family and friends. Be more hopeful of seeing good manifest itself in the world around you. Be more courageous in contributing to positively to those around you, whatever your relationships might be.
In doing so, your life becomes so much more than a compilation of events and memories. You become, like my friend, a man of style and substance. You become someone who makes a difference.
You become someone who will be missed when gone.
Go forth and conquer!