For Sebastian. Take care, pal, you’ll be missed.
Life is fragile and fleeting. Most of us are aware of this, but I’m not sure if we really understand it. I had a bit of a wakeup call recently, when I got an email from my high school with a very vague subject line of “Sad News.” And so, in a smoky, dinky corner bar in Brazil, I found out that a friend of mine had passed away. It was a chilling, sobering realization, that someone I’d seen months ago, someone my age, was just not here anymore.
This sobering, chilling feeling kept me up at night for a couple of weeks, because the truth is, I was scared. I’m scared of a lot of things, and death has never been one of them, but in this moment, I was afraid of death. Not because there was so much to see, or so much to do, or because I’d miss people, but because for once I was close enough to it that the unknown seemed imposing, intimidating, and much too close for comfort. I find myself, then, with only a simple sticking point to solve my dilemma: what’s going to happen if I die right now?
I’m not a particularly religious person, and I derive no comfort from the idea of a god or an afterlife, so that can’t help me. That’s not a problem, as I’ve always sort of taken it for granted that I’d just stop at death. I’ve done nothing to leave as a testament to my existence, so that’s no good either. This is a little worse, because I’d really like to leave behind something to prove that I was here. Besides, I’m not exactly hopeful that, were either of those the case, I’d be satisfied with it.
And therein lies the first rub: I’m not a hopeful person. Whenever I’m not doing well, I get logical, which is exceedingly helpful to fix most of my problems, from not having studied to writing papers hours before they’re due. People, however, are neither logical nor fixable, so this attitude isn’t exactly helpful when dealing with people problems. This frustrates me to no end, and frustration makes me cynical. I’m usually okay until I get here, where the cynicism kills me.
Therein lies rub numero dos: I find it exceedingly hard to get out of this mindset on my own, which means I need help, and I am deathly afraid of needing or asking for help. I don’t want to be a drag, and I don’t want to be a buzzkill, so I tend to be hesitant at best when I need a hand. I’m forever thankful to my friends, who have been there for me many times, for helping me despite my best efforts.
If it seems like I’m leading up to a big reveal here, I hate to disappoint, but this isn’t that kind of article. The solution to my problems is me being less stubborn, but that’s not my point. It’s not about finding a solution, but rather about finding out why that’s the solution. Not to be too cliché, but it’s about the journey, not the destination.
So I guess what I’m really trying to say is that life, fragile though it may be, is not only the path we walk, but the forest surrounding it. Like any other forest, it gets brambly, sometimes the path disappears, and you’ll probably run into some spots where you can’t see the sky, and that’s fine. Sometimes, all we need is to look around, focus, and have faith.
For students looking for support and conversation about grief, the Student Bereavement Group meets on Wednesdays from 4:30-5:45 in the Chapel Undercroft.