Death is inevitable. We've all heard it, we all know it; it just is. It's one of the many facets of life that people like to avoid talking about until it's staring you straight in the face. Sometimes the knowledge of its existence comes to you when you're seven and your first goldfish dies or you squash an ant with your finger. Other times it may be through losing someone close to you; a mother, a father, a close friend.
I don't really remember when I first learned what death was. My experience with death was indirect up until now; a friend's grandmother and a teacher's spouse had passed away when I was in high school. There was always a middle man separating me from true grief. But I can remember when death first affected me personally.
It was just this week when I received a call that one of my old friends whom I had acted in musicals with for years, Ceara, had died suddenly of an undiagnosed medical condition. If you were never in drama club as a kid, then you won't know how easy it is to get close to a person when you're stuck in a musty theater for hours on end singing show tunes. This passionate, bright girl who was so full of life had introduced me to one of my favorite musicals, Hamilton, and had been there through some of the best memories of my high school experience; needless to say, I was devastated and heartbroken.
While sadness and grief lingered with me, so did confusion and anger. I constantly was asking why. Why her? Why now? How is it that, in the same day, I had both spoken to her and learned about her passing? How could this girl, so ready and so eager to tackle the world, have it all taken away when it was right in her grasp, without her even knowing it was coming?
Among all the Hamilton lyrics theater kids belt out during spontaneous bursts of song, there is one that always has stuck out to me:
"You could have done so much more if you only had time."
There's this ache that I feel when I think of all Ceara could have accomplished if she had more time. But that's the thing with death, isn't it? It leaves dreams unrealized, words unsaid. It doesn't leave us with an explanation; it leaves us with an unfinished sentence. I would have loved to see Ceara succeed and follow her dreams like she always said she would, without fail. But I can't focus on the ifs. I can't focus on trying to find an explanation.
What I can focus on is what she did do with the short time she had on this earth.
She took every opportunity she had and ran with it. She brushed past haters and doubters. She auditioned for every musical she could find, and when she wasn't cast in it, she'd find another one. She had this burning passion for life from the moment I met her.
Most importantly, she lived every day to the fullest. She didn't focus on where her sentence would end; she focused on how she would write it.
Death is a part of life. But it's how we live our lives-how we cherish each day, how we seize every moment-that makes death less about mourning the life that has ended and more about celebrating the life that existed.