Last night, as my younger brother and I followed behind a some of our friends who also serve the homeless we had the chance to talk. Let me give you some background information. My brother and I are really close and are both studying to become engineers. We are both seniors and I always joke that we are twins he just happens to be younger. Its really fun to have my brother as a friend and to be able to share experiences like serving the homeless.
Anyway, last night my brother wasn’t very talkative till the end of the evening. He started telling me about his friend who might have Tall Syndrome, which I know almost nothing about supposedly can cause premature death due to issues with circulation. After I checked google (yes real quality medical research right there…) it seems that Tall Syndrome can cause other issues to the body due to size but there was no mention of death. Bottom line, it was bothering my brother and I could see in his eyes that he was hurting. Feeling deeply for his friend who is still not sure of his situation.
It hurt me to see him like this. However, I know this experience. Its part of growing up and facing the cold hard truth that reality sometimes throws your way. The only thing I could think of was the experiences when I was in high school that began to teach me the fragility of life.
I still remember a particular summer morning in july of the summer between my freshmen and sophmore year. That morning I woke up and the sun was shining and I got ready for early morning cross country practice. When I got to our high school parking lot I saw something new. Out by the girls locker room there were wreaths and lots of flowers, candles and I think maybe even notes. I was confused. Then someone, maybe it was Coach, maybe it was a peer, told me the story. Turns out that this guy who was in our class, was killed when riding his motorcycle and had lost control and crashed into the wall outside the girls locker room. It was a sad reality to learn about. I didn’t really know the guy yet he had sat a few seats away in the Biology class I was in. It was strange to think that I could have know this guy but now he was gone. I remember it really impacted some of my friends as they were friends with him and were really impacted by his loss. The whole situation was a new experience for most of us. May he rest in peace.
Then I told my brother the next story of another guy in my class. This kid I had known since middle school and he was christian. He would give me a jokingly hard time about being Jewish but I seem to recall us having some good conversations along the way. I remember him being in my class junior year and he drove my friend nuts and he was always wearing a “Jesus Freak” shirt. Then senior year he was in my english class and sat a few seats back. Sadly one day, I got to school only to learn that he was gone. He died due to inhaling helium or something like that. I recall going to english class and everyone was in shock. Our teacher was really torn and didn’t know fully what to say. Here we were, seniors, about to graduate and this friend, this peer had just died. It was strange. Seemed unreal. May he rest in peace.
What I still remember about both these young men, is their smiles and laughter. I didn’t know them as well as I could have. I do remember that the would laugh and smile and make others due the same. I guess when my brother brought up the subject it reminded me of situations I hadn’t thought of for a while.
My brother even remembered the fake drunk driving crash that my school had prior to prom and graduation to help prevent drinking and driving and to remember the fragility of life. My good friend, B was involved and “died” in it. In order to get the full effect of the accident, no one but those involved knew about this accident. So when we got to class and learned about this it was shocking. Then we got out to the front of school. It happened to be a really hot and sunny morning and most of us, seniors, were quiet. Then I saw the wrecked cars and the blood all over my classmates and friend. My friend B was there and so was my friend T. Here I had studied all semester with both of these friends for calculus and here they were acting dead. It really hurt. It was hard. I knew B since second grade and senior year we had really gotten close. The next day we showed up to school and we had an assembly where it was almost like a massive funeral for these students. We watched videos of what happened to the dead bodies as well as the students that had to go to prison for drinking and driving. Even knowing that it was fake, it was still painful to watch. After the assembly ended, we got to see their families. I don’t think it was till that evening that my friend B was even allowed to answer her phone. I rushed down the street to her house. I hugged her and we talked. We cried. Life became really real right then in those moments. The rest of the school year despite what happened, me and her had grown closer because of it.
Then graduation came. We shared in happy moments and were so alive.
Then came my reality. The day I was in an accident. A tragic situation that I still do not understand (nor do I need to) understand the severity of it. But you know who was there for me. B. She happened to be only an hour or so from the accident and when I got flown to the trauma hospital in Reno, her and her dad and another family friend came up to visit me. Within 48 hours she was there for me. I don’t remember this. Any of this. I didn’t even know this for a bit of time. Although me and B are at different school in different parts of the states, I will forever be grateful for the friend she was and still is. She was there for me and it still means the world to me that she was.
To bring this even more full circle let me conclude with this. Earlier today I happened to talk to this pastor who had prayed intensely for me while in the hospital in Reno. I am jewish however since I go to a Baptist university and since this accident happened while being part of the university there were many faiths that came together to pray for not only me but all those involved. Anyway, this pastor asked me how I was doing and was happy to hear my progress. Then he said something about how amazing it is to be talking to me because when they had first come to the hospital to be there for me and to pray, life didn’t look so good. In fact he even said that he didn’t think there was much if there was any life left in me. When people tell me these things, I get scared. My thoughts get jumbled and I feel lost. I feel confused. However, I then remember that G-d saved me and that I am alive and have feelings and thoughts and actions and even words. I have sight and ability. I am capable. Not for anything that I did but because G-d blessed me with life. He blessed me with awesome doctors, nurses and therapists along the way and more importantly with parents, siblings and friends that care deeply and lovingly. Overall, the conversations yesterday and the day before humbled me and keep me grounded. I also learned that my brother and I seem to be alike on another level. We care. We care deeply about those who are important to us. And we feel. We feel deeply about our actions and the circumstances of life.
Life and Death. It seems life can be deep in beautiful, reflecting and life changing ways because of death.