As I sat perched at the end of my bed, coffee in hand, I scowled as I scrolled through my email inbox, and tapped furiously away at my keyboard possessed with a rage that would rival the Incredible Hulk. I was working through sending out numerous chase emails to freelance writing clients that were dragging their heels in paying me. It felt like the most irritating thing in the world. Indeed, that generally is the bane of my life as a Freelance Writer.
I sipped my coffee and opened up Facebook as part of my daily routine of checking it as if it were the morning paper (!) As I scrolled through my news feed, there was something that caught my eye – a status posted from my friend Bryan’s account.
“This is Bryan’s brother”, the status began. “Bryan passed away this weekend after being involved in an accident and suffering a head injury…” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Forget about my overdue invoices, this felt like the worst thing in the world.
I read the status over and over again as if it were written in hieroglyphics or some other language that I could never understand. My eyes kept darting back to the same phrase – “passed away”, “passed away..”
Of course, I knew exactly what those words meant, but it was hard to correlate their meaning with the image of my friend, so alive and vibrant in my mind. I had spoken to Bryan just a few days earlier. I looked from the status to the profile pictures of him beaming and smiling. It didn’t add up. I thought it must be some kind of distasteful joke. I wanted the news from a more reliable source than social media.
It wasn’t a distasteful joke though. In rolled the funeral announcements, the “Rest in Peace” wall posts and the memorializing of the account. My friend was gone.
As I lingered around Bryan’s profile for a few days, in a perpetual state of denial and disbelief, I found some (strange?) comfort in reading the messages that other people had written. People shared stories of how they met Bryan; they reminisced about the times he went out of his way to help them, and all of the selfless deeds he had done. It was almost like gaining a deeper understanding of how nice a person he was, even after his passing.
Initially, I felt sad and furious about losing a friend – nobody really expects to suffer tragic losses of their peers in their 20’s. Of course, I’m still not okay with it, but then I saw something else – a different way of looking at the situation if you will.
The comments and posts on Bryan’s wall came from hundreds of friends, from dozens of countries and several continents all around the world. He had touched the lives of many. He had traveled the world, managed his own business, learned multiple languages, and lived fearlessly. He may have checked out too soon, but the time during which he was here definitely wasn’t wasted or spent twiddling his thumbs. It reminded me of one of my favourite Oscar Wilde quotes: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist”.
At the end of the day, a departure from this Earth is an inevitable fate for all of us. We know it deep down, but our life and existence is a gift that we too often take for granted. We assume that we will make it to old age. We assume that there is ample time to do it all. Time is in our hands until it isn’t.
Truthfully, problems at work, late invoices, failed relationships and family dramas are annoying – in perspective, but we often spend too much time worrying about things that really aren’t going to matter all that much five years or even five months down the line. We delay the things that we want to do in favor of completing things deemed more “important”.
We say that we’ll travel the world and take that trip when we retire. We say that we’ll be happier when ‘X’ situation occurs, but the truth is that there really isn’t any time like the present.
The passing of someone we know makes us think about our own mortality. The question that I asked myself after my friend’s sudden passing was this:
“If I was to die tomorrow, and look back at the events of my existence in a “this is your life” style montage, would I be satisfied, or were there things I had regretted, opportunities I had missed?”
My answer was yes, wholly satisfied. Because although as a Travel Writer, I may live with an element of reckless abandonment, I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I have no regrets and I have missed no opportunities. What would your answer be?