How My Friend's Sudden Death Changed The Way I Live My Life

“So this is death. This is it,” I thought to myself as I stood over my friend’s coffin as it lowered into his grave. The last time I saw him we were at a wine tasting, and now, at just 30 years old, he had flickered out abruptly like a lightbulb.

It was 7:47 a.m., a week before the funeral, when my aunt sent me the text: “Brendan just died.” As soon as the unexpected message flashed on my phone, it felt as though the walls in my room violently rotated around me. His sudden death punched my soul in the stomach, and its blow shoved me into another dimension. I was in shock. “How could this happen?” I thought over and over to myself. It turns out I’ll never know. His death could have resulted from a brain aneurism, or a possible heart malfunction. No one is really sure, not even doctors.  

Denial was my only comfort — until I saw the body. Once I saw Brendan in the preserved flesh, I knew it was real: my friend was dead.

Just a few months before, we were splashing around a beach in Sao Paulo, Brazil, laughing. Brendan was my aunt’s friend, and he was visiting the country for the first time too. I spent 10 full, internet-less days with him — anyone who's been without wifi for that long knows what a bonding catalyst the experience can be. Even before our digital isolation, we instantly clicked. When we met at the airport it was like reincarnated souls joining in an Indian myth. He must have been my best friend in a past-life, I'm sure of it.

After processing Brendan's passing, I was changed forever. You simply cannot undo death, but it is from death that I learned to live my life. Here are some of the ways Brendan’s sudden death changed how I seize my days.

I Now Realize You Can't Take Your Money With You

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Society trains us to run around like Mario trying to collect money. I too fell victim to this mindset, but Brendan was different; he had compassion in his eyes where others had dollar signs. He remembered to be human in a world of machines, taking time out of his day to really try to understand people.

From his passing, I‘ve learned that companies may exist for centuries, but time with people is limited. As a result, I’ve adjusted my mindset, and spend less time worried about my income, and more time treasuring time with family and friends. You can't take your money with you, and all that remains are memories of your life's impact.

I Try To Choose My Words Like They Could Be My Last

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Death taught me to watch what I say to others. I used to end conversations with harsh words when someone close to me pissed me off. Now, I always make sure to tell the person I’m fighting with that I love them, no matter how angry I am. After Brendan’s death, I even contacted one of my exes and thanked him for always being there for me, because you just never know what your last conversation with someone will be.

Now, no matter how upset I am at that moment in time, I try to end every conversation on a positive note, because that could be the last time someone hears my voice. It sounds dark, but it's helped me be a kinder person to remember that every impression could be my last.

I'm No Longer Afraid To Love Hard

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Brendan must have had a heart transplant with a phoenix, the way he healed himself from past heartbreaks and always let new love in. Before his death, I was very hesitant to let people into my life after getting hurt. But after he left this Earth, I decided to love again, in his honor.

I learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to give your heart again, because it is one of the most beautiful experiences you can let yourself have. We only go round this spinning globe once, so it’s important to make sure that round counts, and is shared with someone worthwhile. Now, I want to make full use of my heart until the day it stops beating, even if that means getting it cut open at times. I’m still lucky enough to be here and feel, even if that perception is pain.

I Now Strive To Be The Kind Of Person People Would Miss

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I have never seen more people at a wake and funeral than at Brendan’s. Everyone was in tears, and all you could hear were hard sobs and sniffles throughout the wake. It was an orchestra of tears and mucus. There were so many people present that, I kid you not, two car accidents happened. It was more than apparent that Brendan had left his mark on a throng of people during his short life. A living, breathing angel with not a bone of malice in his body, he placed focus on what is important in life: forming relationships, and being kind to others.

Before his death, I used to take certain relationships for granted, but now I make sure to foster my connections with everyone I choose to let into my life. I want as many people at my funeral as Brendan had — not for show, but to know that I touched that many souls while alive.

Carpe Diem Is No Longer Some Cute Latin Phrase To Me

It’s not until someone close to you dies that you truly realize how short and unpredictable life really is. When Brendan departed this world, he had just clocked out of work. Who knew that he would clock out for good only a few minutes later?

After his passing, I've found it useful to think about death is like this: When we are born we are given an invisible, wild animal to keep us company. Every day, this imaginary creature walks alongside us, until one day, the creature snaps and decides to take us down. This beast comes to life in the form of brain aneurisms, car accidents, and the like. In this way, death is always near us, and we never know when our last day will come, but for my friend Brendan it was too soon.

His short life was a reminder to stress less about the future, and carpe each and every diem, (and noctem). In the end, none of us knows when our last breath will be. All we can do is keep working towards moments that take our breath away.