It’s strange to me sometimes that when people die it is said we “lost them.” I think of the word lost in the context of misplacing items. People who pass on aren’t misplaced. We aren’t going on a search to find them. They left us for another world. Maybe it is said that way because we really don’t know where they went. Religion teaches us they went somewhere else like heaven or something of that nature or they left their body only to begin life in a new one. So they really aren’t “lost,” they move on. They move on from us, from this world. I like to think they aren’t lost. They know where they are going, we just don’t know. It is impossible to grasp and sometimes impossible to accept. But, maybe it is supposed to be that way, so we can learn to trust and have stronger faith.
A couple months ago, a friend Zach went to school with passed away suddenly. Zach had known him since college and I had gotten to know him over the years since I have been with Zach. He was a guy Zach spoke to pretty much on a daily basis. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was genuinely a really kind human being who genuinely cared about other people. And now, he’s gone.
He was 30 years old. 30. In what kind of world is this tragedy fair? He was so young. He had so many plans ahead of him, just like the rest of us. He left behind parents, siblings, a fiancé, friends.
When we heard the news, I said to Zach, “This doesn’t make sense. We aren’t old enough to have a friend die.” We had a really hard time processing it at first and it’s still weird to try to comprehend. Just a friendly reminder from life that this stuff happens every day to people. Hits you when you least expect it. Life likes to pop up and put you in your place whenever the hell it wants.
Here we are in the midst of such happiness. New house, new baby on the way, and then we hear our friend died. Why are we so lucky to have good fortune? Why did this happen to him, his family, his soon to be wife? He didn’t deserve this. These are just a few questions that linger in times of tragedy. Questions I don’t think I’ll ever find the answers to.
This hit me differently than other losses I have experienced, one because I think it’s the first time a personal friend our age passed away, and because of my pregnancy journey. As I stood listening to his family speak at his service, I placed my left hand on my pregnant belly and clutched Zach’s hand with the other. I was at a service to honor a life that had moved on and inside of me a life was actively growing. The moment was a collision of life and death.
His mother spoke. She said we should think of his life as a gift. The way he lived with his whole heart and his kindness should act as an inspiration for us to continue. We were blessed for the time that we did have with him. His lasting gift to us is helping us maintain the ability to cherish each moment, each day. As I held my hand over my growing gift in my belly, I cried. I cried for all the adventures of marriage and starting a family that our friend would never get to experience. I was amazed at how composed his mom was and how she was able to reflect in such an eloquent way. Her strength and faith was inspiring.
I want to try and live that more often, treating others and experiences as what they truly are, gifts. It’s hard to when you get caught up in life and your perception gets skewed. If we step back and reflect and really try to see reason, every experience can be perceived as a gift. I’ve been caught in dark places the last year and a half with the hardships I have encountered personally with my miscarriages, but hearing our friend’s mother speak inspired me to be stronger. Those experiences have given me the gift of having a greater respect for life, for my body, and the way my body knows what is right for itself.
The idea can be carried over into my workplace as well. A few patients I have come to know pretty well over the last few years have passed on recently. I get so accustomed to seeing certain people and then one day, just like our friend, they’re not there anymore. When I get caught up in the reality of death at work, I will remember to think of the gift in my belly. When I feel the kicks of my little one, it calms me. I will also try harder to remind myself of the special moments I shared with these patients and try to see my moments with them as gifts not only to myself, but also I hope my help was a gift to them.
I remember Zach telling me that when our friend heard about us having a baby he was so excited and he looked forward to meeting our little one. We’ll be sure to tell our baby all about the gift of his friendship and the life long gifts he left with us in his passing….the gifts of love, friendship, and cherishing life.