A humble lad who loved to make and give paper roses, Brett was a young man who had an extraordinary mind and who, undoubtedly, would have had a bright future. He would have become a notable physicist, who would have discovered an important theory regarding the universe. He would have invented something queer yet useful. He would have asked a lot more of his seemingly preposterous questions, which were questions that made you question about existence and living in general (they really weren’t that preposterous). He would have proved something with his mathematical skills too; he would have been an Einstein of our generation. He was wise beyond his years, and he would have been an inspiration to many.
Like you, like me, Brett had big dreams. He dreamt of being successful, of being rich, and of being a productive citizen of the world. He wanted to love, to laugh, to hope, to aspire, to help, to achieve, and more importantly, to live life to its fullest. He had wanted so many things – just like the rest of us.
But, unlike the rest of us, he will never have that chance to do all that he had wanted. He will never be able to eat dumplings again or watch the next season of ‘Game of Thrones’. He will never be able to receive an award for outstanding research or write a beautiful piece of literary work again. He will never get to watch the sun set with the love of his life or peek into a telescope to observe the constellations. Unlike the rest of us, he will never get to live another day. His heart failure took that chance away from him – and along with it, all he has ever dreamt of becoming. He was only 23.
Now, Brett looms over us like a shadow, with only memories to remember him by. His smile, his wit, his big heart – they will always be remembered by the family and friends he left and by people whose lives he has touched. He may have lost the battle to Dilated Cardiomyopathy with Arrhythmia, but that is not how we choose to remember him. Rather, we’ll always remember him as that cheerful, energetic, smart boy who fought to survive and who never lost his spirit to his condition. That is how we’ll remember him. That is how I’ll remember Brett.
You see, people come and go. Friends come and go. That is the reality of life. We don’t own people. They will come as they please and will go as they deem necessary or as they desire. The same thing applies to us. Friendships are built over dinners, parties, and daily events. It’s easy, nice, and happy – but not all the time. The sad, bitter part of a friendship comes at that moment when you realize that you and your friends are slowly drifting apart due to career choices, residency choices, family matters, marriage, and other factors. You don’t get to hang out as often anymore. You don’t know as much about each other’s lives these days anymore. And sometimes, we think that that is perfectly alright. We are busy. We meet new friends. We have a family to look after. We have our own problems to deal with. We have reports to finish. We have laundry to do. We simply just don’t seem to have as much time.
But you know what? We need to stop making these excuses and make time for people we once had time for. We need to stop being too self-centered and share a part of ourselves with people we love. Invite a friend to coffee. Call someone dear on the phone and ask him/her how his/her day is going. Send postcards to friends living in another country. Buy your roommate his/her favorite food from the local restaurant. Hug a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and take the time to do small talk. E-mail your friends. Text your colleagues. Let us remember our relationships and feed warmth to these as much as we can, because one day, we will wish we had – and it might be too late. My friend, Brett, showed me that, and up to this day, I regret not having given him my time when I had the chance.
I should have asked him how he’d been that day we met at that Japanese restaurant. I shouldn’t have just said ‘hi’. I shouldn’t have just smiled and turned away after the exchange of hello’s. I should have asked him how his life has been going so far. Then, I would have known about his condition, his struggle, and his courage. I would have known his story. I would have visited him in the hospital and rekindled our friendship even for the last few months of his life. I should have asked ‘how are you’. I should have given him more time, more attention. I should have, but I didn’t – and I can’t even make it up to him. Don’t let this happen to you. Keep your relationships. Stay in touch with family and friends – and not just during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Give them your time. Talk to them. Laugh with them. Get crazy with them. Spend time together. Share stories with each other. Check up on them. GIve them at least 30 minutes, and you’ll see how much impact that’ll produce on them and on you. Give them at least that.
You never know when they’ll leave you – forever.