I remember creeping around the side of the house with my best friend Andrea on our spring break my freshman year of high school. We were visiting my aunt who had just moved to Virginia Beach for her first job out of college. Her little apartment was about two blocks from the oceanfront. We were sneaking up on Chad, her neighbor that lived in the little one bed room cottage behind the larger 2 or 3 unit apartment building. He was cooking wings on the grill.
"AAAAAHHHHHHHH!" We yelled as we ambushed him from behind. He nearly jumped out of his skin, not aware that anyone else was around. When he got back to his senses he made some classic Chad jokes, probably something to do with the enormity of my forehead, and we went back inside after a while of chit chat.
Moments like that and so many more that I shared with Chad don't easily fade away even though he's no longer here with us. It's difficult to fathom how a person who always appeared so jovial and cracked so many jokes could be so sad inside. I recently wrote a post about mental illness and how we need to re-shape the conversation so that those who are suffering know that they can express their feelings a bit more readily. It stands out ever more clearly now on his birthday. Perhaps if I had talked with him more those last few months he could have released some of that pressure. We always had good conversations. I looked up to him and cared deeply for him, and I knew he cared for me.
As difficult as it was for me losing him, I know it doesn't compare to those closer to him. Death is one of those difficult, yet necessary aspects of life. Often I think it's one of those events that's meant for those who are left behind. A reminder that life is temporary and that we shouldn't take a single moment for granted. A necessity arises to reflect, dig deep, and grow: if we choose.
In losing Chad, and others close to me recently, I have come to learn that more strength and growth is derived when I can be open to these changes and the lessons the pain may offer. It's an opportunity for me to look inward and recollect. As is true of the Earth and decomposing vegetation that becomes rich and fertile for planting, so too is true for us. We require this destruction to build anew, grow, and flourish.
I hope you'll take the Small Act of appreciating each day and moment the best you can, and remember to stay open to love and guidance when pain tells you to shut down.
In his best Steve Erwin accent, "The technique I'm using is not to hurt the fish and get the hook out of his mouth because we're not going to keep this mate. We're going to throw him back out and preserve his life. Bye little fishy, bye little fishy, good little fishy."