What Death Teaches Us

Yesterday, I received news that a former classmate had passed. Suddenly, unexpectedly. An apparent heart attack had claimed the life of a 36-year-old guy who consciously kept himself fit, healthy and sharp in the mind.

I wasn’t sure what to think, how to feel. Perhaps the shock numbed my senses. We weren’t close but we’d just met over lunch a couple of months ago. He was his same old chatty self. My mind drew a blank.

Today was a different story.

While walking out for lunch after a short meditation, I started remembering him, piecing scattered memories together. Mentally summarising how he lived, rather than how he died. The tears started coming, not from sadness that his soul has existed human existence – I believe he is well in the spiritual realm.

Rather (and I’m not sure these words adequately sum things up), it was a deep emotional stir stemming from profound respect for how he had led his days.

He lived a life of purpose.

As far as I could remember, he was a terrible liar. He just couldn’t deal with dishonesty. That formed, I believe, a solid foundation for his path. He found his passion in education – and he was obviously brilliant at it enough to start a profitable business. Testimonials on his social media page proved that he has touched numerous lives and inspired young people at the crossroads of their academic journey.

He acted out of love.

In our most recent conversation, he recalled how his family wasn’t financially secure in his growing up years. Even in his early teen years, he knew he had to (he wanted to) help. He was academically driven because doing well in school, getting into a prestigious university and then getting a good job was his solution to making his family more comfortable – and indeed, he succeeded. Some people might have called him kiasu but nobody bothered to find out the backstory. Being a mother now, this particularly struck a chord.

He didn’t put up any walls.

He was always him, at least to us, his schoolmates. Prior to our lunch, we hadn’t met or spoken for probably 20 years. But there was nothing awkward or foreign about meeting this guy. He was an open book, and because of that, everyone else could also be themselves around him.

Before his death, I never thought of him in this manner. Sure, he (and the rest of us) have the same ego wants – to earn more money, enjoy material comforts and get validation from others. But this is all part of the human experience – without the darkness, there’s no light.

Looking over my memories of this dear friend has awakened me on yet another level, and for that, I’ll forever be grateful to him. And his family will be in my best thoughts for some time to come.

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