On Mortality and Friends Gone Too Soon, Too Soon

A friend from high school died this Christmas. The first thing I wanted to do after learning of this tragedy was read. Read and read and read and read.

I have hundreds of books I haven’t read, and I wanted to work out a schedule to devour them all as quickly as possible. I took out Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn on a whim and read the first page. I felt the incredible urge to run to the nearest bookstore and purchase all seven Harry Potter books because I don’t own my own copies yet (I’m ashamed to admit I’ve only read until The Goblet of Fire).

My friend’s death and death in general—passing on, disappearing behind the Veil, a separation, time cut short, unexpectedly—made me think about everything I wanted to do, everything I wanted to say to other people (I love you), where I am in my life, how much I’ve accomplished, and how I’m still so far away from achieving most of dreams. When we were younger, we couldn’t wait to grow up; time moved so slowly. Now, we blink and another Christmas, another birthday, another decade has passed. Soon, we’ll be 30 then 40 then 50, dreaming only of sleep and wondering why we were so wasteful in our youth.

In many ways I still feel like a child, but more often I think that I’m probably at my half-life already, and other 25-year-olds who think they’re in their quarter-life are too optimistic they’ll live to be 100. At this point in my life, I’ve only just begun getting acquainted with the reality of weddings, babies, amortisation, insurance, and long-term investments. This is adulthood, as they say, but it escaped me that this transition also involves knowing you can buy mass cards in National Bookstore and bringing individually-packaged pastries to wakes because it’s a considerate thing to do. This awareness is heartbreaking in your 20s.

Youth embraces the self-sustaining belief of invincibility. Young, wide-eyed, and full of promise, I thought it absurd that death could touch me early on. I had so much life to live. To rob me of all my potentialities was an injustice of nature. When I jump, I just jump—because I think I can do everything, defy anything.

…until life threw curveballs at me aimed straight at my gut and spirit. I’m still alive and kicking, but I’ve come to believe that a person can die in more ways than one. In the midst of mourning, the death of others makes me confront my own mortality. I think, that could have been someone I loved, that could have been me. And someday, it will be them, it will be me.

I feel both the burden and blessing of living. I’m saddened by someone gone too soon yet grateful I’m still alive right now, in this moment at least. What comes to mind is the saying that life really is too short, and we’ve got to make the most out of this journey as best in the unknowable amount of time we have, curveballs and blind spots and all.

Raissa, blackbird, may you find your way Home swiftly and safely. I’ve questioned God’s silence many times, but I see now that He sang to all through you. Thank you for filling this world with song.


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