7 years ago, on this very day, I would have just gotten home from a 3 days vacation at a beach apartment with 12 of my best friends. Three days filled with alcohol, late-nights and daring stunts.
I was 16 and I don’t give a shit about the world. Let’s face it, nothing is sexier to a 16 year old than lots of fun.
After a hot shower, I jumped straight to bed, dead to the world. At about 7.30pm I was woken up by a phone-call but I was too tired to answer it so I went back to bed. I woke up the next day at 8.00am to ’15 missed calls’ staring back at me on my mobile screen.
I called the first on the list, Joseph, and there was an awkward silence when I said "Hello".
Through what I assumed were sobs, he murmured some shit that I did not understand. I told him, “Joseph, what is wrong?”
I didn’t hear the next few words properly, but I heard, “Bryan…. swimming…. drowned… hospital…” And he paused. At that very moment, I felt my own body breaking into pieces. He then said the last 3 words I did not want to hear, “And he died.”
At 16, life was supposed to be ideal – you have best friends, you be hip and cool, experiment with shits, hang out with your gang and who gives a shit about the world. However, at 16 I saw my best friend lying on his death bed – pale, calm and still. And through his death bed, I saw my own death.
I died that day.
For 3 months, I lived in a world of emptiness and darkness surrounded by pain and betrayals. I questioned my direction in life, my purpose of life and most of all, I questioned the very essence of existence.
We all lived to die. So why live?
Or so I thought.
Those much-needed three months really changed my life forever. It’s helped me to establish an identity for myself – my belief, values and place in the world.
Going through those three months also helped me to see the heroic act in others who are going through adversities of their own. Often, we look up to big public superheroes that we forget about people in our everyday life. For example, I have come to appreciate that for someone whose going through severe depression, even getting up every morning is a heroic act that needs equal acknowledgement in itself.
The world continues to spin regardless of what happens in our world and in the world. It continues to spin because of the many heroic acts, the generous actions that happen on a daily basis that go unnoticed.
I vow that I will not arrive on my death bed in “one piece”. Seeing myself in a death bed has taught me to live. I guess Morrie Schwartz was right when he said, “you don’t learn to live until you learn to die”. Everyday, I tell myself that I am more alive than ever, I am capable and I will surf every wave, reach every dreams and fight for everything I deem important. At the end, I want to lie in my death bed saying, “Boy, what a ride!”
The pain of losing someone you love never go away, it just becomes more bearable. It still hurt, and it hurts a lot when I come to think about it. But these pain reminds me that in my everyday life, in everything I do, I must make sure that I keep a warm heart, a cool head and lead with open ears.
Today is an important day to me because 7 years ago, today, I died. Because I died, I am able to live again – and live a fulfilled life that I have today.
Today is an important day, because today I honour, pay respect and remember my best friend… my brother. I believe he’s still very much alive in me because it is through him that I am who I am today.