12 07 2004

So I’m reading a book called The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, who also wrote Tuesdays with Morrie. If you’ve read that one, I recommend Five People.

 Mitch Albom’s writing style is simple and readable. He’s just as wise as Morrie because of the lessons he pulls out of life. I found the first one I can actually feel in the book:

      The Blue Man held out his hand. “Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

I know the meaning of that in so many ways, and I’ve already been taking that to heart over this summer through just about everything I’ve been doing. I’ve been taking golden opportunities, and if someone said I had to die tomorrow, I’d be fine with it. That doesn’t just have to do with the fact that I’m living happily, but that’s part of it.

I’ve known too many that have died young. I’ve known at least three teens who have committed suicide.

One was an acquaintance at school. I used to talk to him before school when I’d get there an hour and a half early. We always screwed around and would talk in study hall. His name was Caleb, and he was in some type of armed forces. He was a black belt in karate and a manager at McDonald’s. He shot himself, and I don’t know why.

Another was my neighbor, Ryan. He was Korean, adopted with his sister by loving parents and an awesome guy. He was in high school when I was still in eighth grade. I remember him babysitting me and my sister once or twice and playing with us while letting us do whatever we wanted. I used to go over to his house and borrow Nintendo games, too. He ended up heading out to U of M – Norris and playing on their football team as a kicker, which I thought was the coolest. His freshman year, he shot himself, and I don’t know why.

The third, which hit me as hard as the death of my neighbor, was the death of my friend Bergman. I played hockey on the same team as him for at least two years. When I felt like an outsider because I didn’t go to the same school as everyone else, he made me feel welcome. I even played hockey with his younger brother for two years. Every time when I thought I wouldn’t see him again, I’d run into him. A lot of times, he and his brother would come down to the pickup hockey rink across the street from my house, and I’d find them playing hockey. He was good, too. A lot better than me for sure. We’d play hockey until they shut the warming house down and we were forced to go home. When I went off to college, I didn’t think of him at all, as was the case with most of my friends from home. One day earlier this year, my mom called me and told me she saw his name in the obituaries alongside of his picture. After she made a couple calls to other hockey moms, she found out. He killed himself, and I don’t know why.

Along with the questions that come with suicide are also the questions of what could have happened. What experiences did that person cheat themselves out of? Even worse, what memories were ripped away from that person’s loved ones? I know that if a family member or one of my friends here at school did that, I’d probably cry myself to sleep every night for a month thinking about them and what they meant to me.

So many others in my life have passed before their times. One friend of the family, Ben, died of leukemia when he was about eight, the same age as me. His death brought masses of people together and a lot of grief.

Another high school buddy of my dad’s had gone on to be a championship goalie for the Minnesota Gophers and a very successful dentist. One day in his forties, he died of a heart attack. It was horrible because he was a great guy and left for what seemed to be no reason.

As I’ve written in past entries, this lesson for me is to cherish those you have and make them know you do. You don’t know how much time you have with someone and what might happen to them.

 Take the time to listen to people. Conversations all too often just turn out to be people waiting for their turn to talk. If you listen to what people have to say, you’ll be amazed at how much they’ll open themselves up to you. I’ve learned that a smile is the best way to hide pain, so don’t assume anything about friends’ emotions.

Finally, seize the day. Like my old Latin teacher Freddy used to say, “Carpe diem.” If you don’t feel that, watch the beginning of Dead Poets Society and get back to me. Life is an insanely paced marathon that people either zone out to or seize as an opportunity.

I’m learning to sail, finding out new things about what mosquitos do when they bite us, learning guitar, watching less TV and making some amazing friendships this summer. What are you doing?

Love life.




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