My cousin died last week. He was 32.
Obviously, he was too young to go. He left behind a wife, a sister, a niece, a mom, a dad, and two step-families who loved him very much -- not to mention the rest of his family, including his cousins like me. The last week has understandably been very difficult for my family. We buried my sweet grandmother just a month ago and now suddenly we are all reeling in shock and pain again. It doesn't feel like we can handle anymore loss.
His death has taught me a few things and I wanted to share those lessons with our readers.
First -- Live life fully. Little did I know when I hugged his neck at my grandmother's funeral that I'd never see him again. Make each embrace, each conversation, everything -- make it all count. Try not to let petty disagreements or anger cloud your interactions with those that you love. Try to be "present" in every moment with those you care about instead of merely living passively. The end can come quickly and if it does, you'll always regret not living a full life and embracing each moment with the people you care most about.
Second -- It can wait. While we are not certain of exactly what happened in my cousin's case, it is clear that he was somehow distracted while driving. So for the love of all that is holy -- Put away your cell phones, always wear your seatbelt, and pay attention to the road at all time. Distracted driving can be deadly driving and nothing -- I repeat, NOTHING -- is worth risking your life for while you're on the road.
Third -- Put your final wishes in writing. I know that you may think it is morbid to talk about "final wishes" or arrangements when you are in your 20's or 30's, but it is not. It is smart. I hope and pray that everyone lives a long, happy life but the sad truth is that some lives are cut short. If that happens to you, it will be much easier on your loved ones if they know your final wishes. So while it may not be the most fun thing to do, please think about documenting things properly.
The end should never come that early for any of us. Ever. Especially for the good guys. Make no mistake about it, my cousin was one of the good guys. He really was. But I take some comfort in knowing that even in death, he has taught me these lessons. I hope that by sharing them here, his impact is even more profound and his legacy as one of the good guys grows.
So today, in memory of my cousin, vow to live a full life. Vow to never become distracted while on the road. And finally, vow to do the responsible thing and make sure that your final wishes are somehow known. When you are done taking those vows, take a moment and remember my cousin for the good guy that he was and if you could, say a prayer for the wife, mother, sister and other family members and friends he left behind. We all dearly miss him. And we always will.