Fragility and fairness

We’ve all done a lot of thinking and talking about what we’re grateful for in the past week, maybe even to the point where it seems trite. Your list probably looks a lot like mine: family, friends, U.Va., health, security, America, etc. This year, Thanksgiving and the holiday season mean a little more to me than they have before.

A little more than two months ago, one of my friends from home passed away tragically and unexpectedly. To be honest, at first, it didn’t change my day-to-day life all that much. I didn’t pick up the phone to call him then stop mid-dial or pause before posting a funny link on his wall, because we weren’t in contact that regularly. He was someone I spent a significant portion of my childhood with, but since we’d grown up we’d only seen each other occasionally.

In dealing with the shock, grief and all the accompanying emotions, friends and family offered comfort and advice. But still, I spent the week between his passing and funeral in a haze, forsaking homework to take calls from friends from home, confused by grander moral questions.

As a natural reaction I looked for reason, which of course I am still unable to find. I want to believe everything happens for a reason, even if I can’t understand it. I think of his death as a reminder that life is fragile and unfair, but this clichéd life lesson is so meaningless — so trivial compared to someone’s life and the void where he used to be.

I’ve come to realize that even though “it’s not supposed to happen,” it does. We just don’t admit it until it happens to someone we know. We know life is fragile, but we push that thought to the back of our minds. We don’t like to think about it. It’s uncomfortable. But then we’re forced to confront it — to face the uncomfortable reality.

I searched for ways to honor him. A contribution to the scholarship in his memory was a material way to keep his memory alive. But I want to honor him beyond that. I want to always keep in mind how precious life is.

In this way, his death has changed my life greatly. Now on a daily basis, I think of him. I think of even the things I don’t like to do and how lucky I am that I still get to do them. I think of his family and his close friends who are suffering a far greater loss, asking themselves tougher questions than the ones I’ve been wrestling.

Needless to say, I’d gladly forget all of these lessons and everything I was reminded of to have him back — for his family to have him back, for even one more Christmas, one more day, or any time at all.

In thinking of him, I try not to think only of the sadness in his death. I try to think of the happiness of his life: his smile, his quiet leadership ability and his dedication to what he loved. That’s the way he should be remembered because that’s how he should have continued to live. I think of how lucky I was to know him and the good times we had as kids. I hope that soon, this nostalgic happiness will be all that comes to mind when I think of him.

For now, I hope this will remind you of all the things you try to forget and don’t like to think about. Remember that life is fragile; it is unfair. Remember that you are lucky, even on a bad day. Remember what really matters, be grateful for all that you have, and know you mean far more to people than you even realize.

Abbi’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at

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