Alex had always been Alive, a real balls-to-the-wall, live-your-life kind of guy. Once, he drove from Philadelphia to Delaware at 1 am on a Thursday morning, just for kicks. Another time, he dared the laws of physics and rode his skateboard down a near 90 degree hill without protective gear. He came away from the ride bloodied and bruised, but with what he considered mere battle scars, a small consequence that comes with Living. He had adventure in his soul, pumping in his veins. He loved to be Alive, and he was damn good at it. On September 22, 2007, when he was 21-years-old, he was killed in a car accident.
Prior to his death, I had believed that I lived how Alex did. I believed that I took up any offer, any potential adventure that came my way. I believed that I was really Living my life. I was wrong.
Looking Alex in the face as he laid in his casket, I suddenly realized how full of life he had always been. His long, unkempt hair had been washed and combed, his favorite shirt had been cleaned and he was perfectly still. Traits very unlike the spontaneous Alex I knew.
After Alex’s funeral, my life changed – at first unconsciously. Suddenly, eating a BLT sandwich with lots of extra mayo didn’t end my world; handing in an assignment late or even skipping class altogether, something I had never done previously, wasn’t a big deal. I even began crying openly and in public. I made a lot of onlookers uncomfortable. I had previously refused to let anyone see me cry and here I was sitting on public transit, crying without trying to hide it. It all felt so good.
Then over time I began to change consciously. I began to really Live, like Alex had always Lived. I went out of my way to say “yes” to any invite I could, I stayed up a little later, I enjoyed an extra drink, an extra cookie, an extra long awkward conversation. I admitted my vulnerability, and more importantly, my mortality. I learned to ask for help and to forgive all of my past hurts. I learned the difference between forgiving and forgetting and forgiving and learning to walk away from those who were hurting me. I learned to Live.
Once I began Living, Alex’s death was no longer a painful reality that I drug behind me like a heavy book bag. Instead, his death became a part of my present, a battle scar that is a consequence of Living. I believe in Living and all that comes with it, the good and the painful. This I believe.