Fifteen minutes ago a text from my sister rendered me speechless.
She asked if I remembered someone from our high school bus ride, who had tragically died earlier today. I asked what grade he was in. She said he was in my grade, and then shared his name.
My heart dropped.
Not only did I know him, I spoke with him just two days ago. It was the first time I had seen him in years, and we ended up reminiscing for about ten minutes, sharing milestones in our lives and joking about how quickly time flies. We mentioned all the Facebook updates that continuously surprise us (friends getting married, having kids, getting jobs) and how it seems like only yesterday we were still in Parkland High School.
He was excited to go back to college at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and would be leaving in just a few weeks. After getting his degree he planned on going to flight school to become a pilot. I joked about his muscular physique and asked if he was still doing gymnastics. He was. In fact, he was captain of the school team.
He was such a kind person. Every memory I have with him at school was a pleasant one; seeing him in the hallways and saying hello, washing our hands at roughly the same time during lunch…the list goes on.
Something I distinctly remember from our conversation on Wednesday was how much eye contact he made. He seemed truly interested, respectful, and present in our conversation. Honestly, that doesn’t happen too much anymore in the “let-me-check-my-phone-quick” age of communication. But he was such a genuine person, and I am lucky to have shared those moments with him.
Just two days ago we spoke. Two days. My mind is still in disbelief. I look at this blog on personal growth and am reminded that growth is only possible through life. And because life is unpredictable, it is all the more precious and sacred. How lucky we are to have it. As I saw today, it only takes one moment, one incident, to change everything.
To his friends and family: I earnestly pray that you may be blessed with healing, hope, and comforting. What an amazing man you had to share your lives with.
To everyone else: Please please please, remember how precious life is. Why fight, why argue, why be bitter…why not love? Anyone you meet, on any given day, at any given place, could use your kindness and appreciation. Take life seriously. Share it. Cherish it. Make the most of it. Smile. Be happy; we are not all promised tomorrow.
It’s easy to think of ourselves as invincible, but too many stories like this show the opposite. Even young lives, even compassionate, friendly people, with friends, family, dreams, and aspirations, can be taken at any time. May it remind us all of how blessed we are for this very moment.
Every night we go to bed, and every morning we wake up, let our first words be “thank you”. How precious and sacred, life is.
In memory of Austin, dedicated to his family, friends, and anyone who has ever lost somebody.
Photo by eyebiz