Last week was loaded with change - Tuesday I gave notice at a company where I've worked for six years (a lifetime in Silicon Valley years), Wednesday a member of my rowing club passed away in a tragic plane crash (as did a friend of mine's friend - the pilot of the plane), and Friday I celebrated my birthday.
Birthdays always make me reflective. I think about the past year, all my years really, and the change that's taken place over time. This year, with a new job on the horizon and the life of someone taken away so suddenly, the reflection's lingered.
On Thursday my friend Jeff wrote a note in Facebook about a talk he had recently with his brother. His brother is brain damaged and suffered schizophrenia for many years before he was found beaten and left in a coma on Mission Street in the early ’90’s. Jeff describes him as a little slow now, walking with a slight imbalance, but with most of his cognitive abilities recovered he’s functioning well enough. Waxing philosophic Jeff asked him about the meaning of life to which his brother plainly and clearly replied that life doesn’t have to have a meaning and that it is simply good to be alive. Then Jeff asked about death...
“Do you think we continue on somewhere else?” Without hesitation, [his brother] pointed out that there is too much of each and every one of us in other people, that humanity carries within itself it’s own continuation, that our own lives are lived again by others, right now and also after we die. Our status as human beings is our bid for eternity. Everyone is a participant of the future.
And I thought of Andrew. When I tell people about his death in the crash and they ask me about him I say I didn't know him very well because I didn't know him very long and he wasn't someone that I saw or talked to daily, or even monthly. The longest interaction I had with him was when we spent several hours together stripping and cleaning oars at a rowing club work day. I remember liking him right away - friendly and talkative, I learned how passionate he was about his job at Tesla Motors, I learned that he liked to cook and watch movies and hang out with his friends. And of course I knew he enjoyed rowing. He had a warm, energetic spirit that was instantly recognizable.
What I learned is that it didn't take but a few hours for me to know Andrew. I cried over his death as I would for a close friend.
I take comfort in Jeff's brother's words that our own lives are lived again by others, right now - the mark we leave is a living, breathing thing and that makes us all participants of the future. Cliched as it is, life does go on, all our lives, in all of us.