"People want to know how Finn died. I don't care how he died. That's not what matters. That was one day in his entire life. I care about how he lived."
The quote struck me. In the early days and months after Dude's death, I met with many of his friends. Some were my friends too, and some I'd not met before or would only consider an acquaintance. All of them wanted to know one thing. What happened. How did a man full of such life and energy give up on what he would have once deemed a great adventure?! I understood why everyone asked this question yet I didn't want to answer it. I was in the trenches for all of the ups and downs, so of course, I could have provided an answer. Do I truly know the real answer? Probably not, but I know enough to provide something that would suffice. Yet I'd always redirect the question. I'd shy away from answering not only because I wanted to protect Dude, but because to answer the question would be to tell them of a man they did not know. See, Dude was not Dude when he died. As one of his brothers said, "he got lost and forgot who he was." I could recall those last few months. I could discuss the transformation I saw in him. The hopes. The fears. The good. The bad. The ugly. But, it would not be an accurate description of the man they knew. The man who had touched their lives. So, in response to the question of "What happened?", I'd politely say focus on the man you called your friend. Focus on what you loved most about him and how he made you feel. Focus on what he did that touched you. Focus on the lessons you learned from him. Focus on how he lived. Not how he died. It is in this way that Dude's spirit is kept alive in our hearts. It is in this way that we carry the best of him with us and "introduce" him to those who sadly did not have the opportunity to meet him. I'm sure most of the people I met with may not have been satisfied with that answer. They felt that knowing the details of his illness, his downward spiral that ultimately lead to this death would help them heal. Maybe I did them a disservice by not going into all of the tragic details. If so, I'm sorry. But, his death was one day. The last thing I want is for people to remember him for how he died. Very few people want to be remembered for how they died. It's how you live that matters. It's the dash that counts!
Tonight, I was once again reminded to make life count. University of Richmond, where I went to college, is a small school and everyone knows everyone. Andrew Holter was a couple years younger than I, but he was an opinion editor of The Collegian, our newspaper, and I remember him and his columns well. They were always funny yet thought-provoking. Even when Andrew was studying abroad, he took the time to write his columns. Perhaps the most thought provoking thing Andrew wrote came shortly before his accidental death -- he drowned while visiting some friends in Italy. Before his death, Andrew (unknowingly) wrote,
"In life, the gains come on slowly, and the losses happen in an instant. Life is tragic. If you're reading this, that means you're alive. Do something with it. You don't want to die without any scars, do you? "
It's the dash that counts!