Learning From Loss

In the past two months I lost two people that I knew. I was not best friends with either of them. I was not part of their families. However, I knew them. I knew them more than the way one would say they know people in their classes. I knew them more than I know the guy who gives me my Starbucks drink every other day. I knew them more than I know the women I see on the train every Friday. I knew them in the way that we know little things about people; the way they laugh, their smiles, what ways they wear their hair, favorite music, favorite TV shows. This knowledge is a bit superficial compared to hopes and dreams, how they spiritually identify, what their childhood was like, but it is bits and pieces that make up a small friendship. Both friendships had enough impact that, now that they are gone, something in me has completely shifted.

The first person passed away at the end of August. She was diagnosed with Leukemia two years ago, and passed away after a long battle with illness. I went on a service trip with her my sophomore year of college and we kept in touch ever since. She was extremely funny, charming, kind, and beloved by all who came into contact with her. When she passed away, I could honestly feel a bit of that love and compassion for life that she had, leave this world. I was shaken. How could someone with such strength die? How could someone who was so loved, not be here anymore?

This week, I found out a man who was in my volunteer program last year was killed in a car accident. He and another former volunteer were cycling across the country after they finished their year of service. He was struck by a car, and died from the injuries sustained.

He was another person who was caring, compassionate, hilarious and so incredibly loved by all. When I heard the news I was honestly in shock. How could someone who was so clearly destined to do great things in his life, not be here?

These two people were incredibly loved. When news of their passing hit, my Facebook was overrun with people expressing their shock, sadness, and sympathies. I could not log onto my Facebook without seeing a status memorializing one of these people for weeks on end. People, all over, were genuinely, with their full hearts, expressing their grief.

After I got over my initial shock to both of the deaths, I began to think of my own life, as death usually causes. I looked at how friends and family shared memories on social media outlets, each one saying what an amazing person the deceased was.

I then looked at my own Facebook. A status about how I dropped my phone at the train station, shattering the screen, has twenty likes. Fifteen of those people I cannot remember when the last time, if ever, I have spoken to them in person. The last thing that a friend posted on my timeline was a Buzzfeed article about “Gilmore Girls”. Obviously, I’m not expecting people to write their heartfelt goodbyes to me online right this minute. But I cannot shake the thought: if I were to suddenly leave this world, what would people say about me?

I have a pretty good read on what people think of me. I know I am sarcastic, cynical, and knowledgeable about 90’s music and Netflix. But I really hope that whenever I go people are not saying, if they are saying anything, “She was a sarcastic ass, but man could she own at pop culture trivia.” I have made some mistakes in life. I am not perfect. I am not a horrible person though, I know this. I have done some really cool things, and have helped out others, at least I have tried. What I am not sure of is if my daily actions represent the kind of person that gets spoken about the way my two friends were.

You never know when your number is up. In less than two months I saw two amazing people, with amazing futures, pass away. However, they did not wait until the future to be the kind of people that are remembered for their joy for life, laughter, and kindness towards others.

The cliché is to live like there is no tomorrow, which does have some truth and power to it. We all want to live like that. It is not as easy as it seems though, because, odds are that there will, in fact, be a tomorrow.

What if, instead, we lived like the people we wanted to be remembered as? What if our daily actions were so generous that people were inspired to write on social media how awesome we are before we die? What if we were more than “Hey, you’re really lazy and have watched Gilmore Girls too many times…here’s top 10 reasons why that show is awesome!” What if people actually knew us for more than a witty status here and there that is “like-worthy”?

If you passed away today, what would people write to you about what kind of person you were?

If you passed away today, whose whole life would be altered by your departure?

You can read more from Catherine Migel on her blog.

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