Words fail to capture such moments. I think I swore a couple of times when I heard the news Sunday morning, that my my 19-year-old cousin had died after a reaction to jumping in the frigid North Atlantic in Scotland. My thoughts turned to his family, his parents, his twin brother. Such a good, loving family that had gone through a lot and come out with such joyful attitude towards life. His grandparents were the ones that gave me the name for this domain, true stalwarts against all the pain and bullshit that life could throw at them and yet still smile and appreciate both what they had, and what they had lost.
But to suddenly lose someone so young, happy, full of promise and potential, in such a capricious manner, where do you turn for comfort and logic to explain the one burning question. Why? Some turn to faith, some turn to philosophy, and others look inward for some sort of way to make some sort of sense to such terrible events.
That’s just the thing, though, there isn’t any sense to be found. Solace, sure. Comfort, yup. But there is no sense to be made. It’s been 23 years since someone close to me passed at 19, again of Random Medical Condition, and to this day I cannot make any sense of what happened.
Instead, I eventually took that experience, however, and learned from it. The lesson is that no matter what some guy in a Roman collar says, or what you read in a book, life is a gift, whether the gift of a creator or the most amazing cosmic accident. Thing is, it has an expiration date. It might be when you are 96 years old, surrounded by a horde of grandchildren and more. It might be tomorrow. You don’t know.
So realize that you get one shot, and it might end at any time, so live. Live the way you want to live, but also make that life worthwhile. In Scouting there is a rule about camping, leave the place better than you found it. That rule applies to life too. Do you make others happy in your life? Are you leaving the world in a better state than when you got here? While people will mourn your absence, will they think of you and smile and laugh? Did you make a difference?
If you can say yes to all of those questions, you win at life.
(If you can answer yes, you may also be a zombie or vampire, so best to get that checked.)
Speaking for myself, I think it is safe to declare Evan a winner at life, despite only being given a far too short time to rack up such an amazing score. My younger son said tonight that he was really sad because he was really going to miss playing games at the Family Reunion with Evan. I look at Evan’s Facebook wall and see all the people posting expressions of grief and gratitude for sharing what time he had with them. I know I will miss the call of “cousin Joe!” and damnit who am I going to win the egg toss this year with? I see on the tv news interviews with teachers and friends who are grieving mightily, not just at the senseless loss, but also a selfish sadness about the knowledge that they will never get to see his infectious smile, and his exuberance, which seems so cliche but is the only word I could think of that even came close to the energy and life Evan brought into the room, not unlike his grandparents in years past.
So no, I still cannot find logic or sense in this tragedy. I will probably never have an answer to why. But I do take some small comfort in knowing that despite it being a shortened game, Evan won at life. In fact it wasn’t even close. He kicked life’s ass. He will be missed, and while there will be a hole in the hearts of those who loved him that will never be filled, there is some small comfort in knowing that he won, and made our world so much better in doing so.
Goodbye, Evan. We miss you already.