Without any way to circumvent the point, I’ll go ahead and write bluntly. An old friend died this weekend. With this death in my rearview, I can’t seem to sort through my murky, clouded thoughts to bring myself to write about anything but him. We hadn’t talked in more than a year, but Steven held a significant presence in my past as my first high school boyfriend — someone I spent endless teenage nights with. My neighbor, a community member, an athlete, a student, a friend. More importantly, he was a really special and influential person to a lot of people who remain very close to me. The sun shines bright today, but I’m at a loss of words. I sat in Newcomb watching the Sunday hustle and bustle with the computer screen in front of me and music I wasn’t listening to pour out of headphones as cold chills crept up and down my back. Nobody here knows Steven and everyone moves on with his or her day. Nobody knows Saturday morning, an innocent 20-year-old from Fairfax, Va. got hit by a car in Greenville, N.C. and died. They’ll never get to know him. The people from home, of course, we all know him — but that’s not my world right now. My world is U.Va. for one last week until I can be with the people who knew Steven. That’s the world where my heart and thoughts are, though I must remain in Charlottesville. I tell my best friends I love them, that I cherish their friendships and their lives, but that doesn’t change what’s happened. A beautiful family loses their only son, less than two years after having lost their father to a heart attack. A former family of five now has only three crying, heartbroken women left. I’m too afraid to delve into my imagination and put myself in that family’s shoes. The thought is unthinkable. When it rains, it pours. I’m at a loss of words thinking about how crushed his family and closest friends are. In the blink of an eye your life, your everything, your little brother, your best friend, can be snatched from you. A person so present in your everyday life, or so heavily ingrained in your memory is forever gone and there’s nothing you can do but keep on treading. Life doesn’t slow down for anyone, so what are you supposed to do when you so desperately can’t keep up with it — when you’re lost in a whirlwind and real time means nothing but numbers on a clock, or words on a calendar. Nothing makes sense when you think about it for too long, but I could think about death for a lifetime and still never understand. I believe the mental capacity to understand death was strategically left out when our minds were formed — the greatest coping mechanism mankind has. You can’t wrap your head around a lack of something. From one minute to the next, a life is gone. But what is life then? His body is gone, but his soul remains dispersed amongst his loved ones. His spirit and essence are no longer concentrated in one physical being, but rather disseminated and dispersed; shattered into a thousand pieces — a small morsel for each person to hold onto. Sunday I crawled into myself and spent the day reflecting. It’s sad that it takes extreme tragedies to make one realize how lucky we are. A blessing in a horribly gruesome disguise. I went on a long drive holding hands with my best friend just appreciating the beauty of the roads and the bright rays of sun shining on my face. But still, I feel selfish worrying about my midterms, and thinking about what I need to pack for spring break. Enjoying my dinner, calling my dad, driving my car to Target, reading a book. I feel selfish sitting in my pajamas writing my column in a candlelit bedroom after a hot shower, because someone I was once so close to will never again enjoy life’s simple pleasures. I heard someone once say you only truly die when the last person you know on Earth dies, and I think I would like to start believing in this. Since Steven’s human shell can’t hold his spirit anymore, it’s on the rest of us to hold it for him. Everyone’s spiritual and religious views are different, and I respect that, but it’s a fact of physics that energy cannot be destroyed or created. It can only converted from one form to another, and it’s a duty and a responsibility we have to keep him alive. Rest in paradise, Steven. Valerie’s column normally runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.