Thursday, December 11, 2014

To Live With Gusto

Sometimes the end of a life is the true beginning of someone else's. 

Shaggy brown hair, a bright smile, loud laughter. That was Jared.
Jared was a fellow student at my high school. He would walk into class everyday with a smile on his face, greeting everyone he saw. He loved to make people laugh and always seemed to have endless amounts of energy. Everyday that I had a class with him I would find myself laughing at his silly remarks and joyful soul. I remember in particular the days that we would play competitive games in class; Jared would get so involved in these that you just had to smile at his enthusiasm and team support. Jared was a bright spot in most student’s days. He turned out to be a great friend of mine.

My sophomore year of high school things changed, more specifically, Jared changed. His change came because his mother died while in heart surgery. He was overtaken by sadness and remorse for the immediate period after her death, but as he came out of those emotions he was more compassionate, he had more love in his eyes for those around him, and he somehow found even more joy in life. His cheery disposition returned and we spent the rest of the year laughing through our classes together.

The next year I would no longer see Jared at school; his family was moving to Arizona. His Dad’s health was not very good and they had family in Arizona. Jared’s aunt would step into their lives to help them out in any way possible after the death of his Mother. I was sad as he walked out of my life and the joyous spirit he always brought left our school community.

Life went on though. I had other friends who brought true joy and happiness to my life. I did miss Jared, but I saw he was doing well in Arizona. He made new friends, was doing some fun things, and looked like he was having the time of his life; I was happy for him, especially after the loss of a woman who was so important to him.

But one day everything changed.

Facebook posts started surfacing on his wall, “I can’t believe you’re gone” was the overlying theme. I read through them and froze in utter fear and disbelief. Was he really gone? He was a senior in high school, preparing to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. How could he be gone? I was in a state of denial. 

I’m sure this was how King Lamoni’s wife felt when she was told her husband was dead. King Lamoni is a king in The Book of Mormon. He was thought to be dead by all of his servants, so they informed the queen of his death. She stood in complete denial of the situation at hand; she could not bring herself to believe or admit that he was gone. She searched out prophets to receive the answer to her question, "Is he really dead?" Looking back on the situation, I followed this reaction pattern in my own story.

Jared’s death was a time of complete confusion for me. I didn’t know what was true and if he was really gone. I felt I knew that there was no way Jared could be gone just like that. I couldn’t come to accept it until his brother posted that it was true. His brother was the "prophet" that answered my denying heart. He really was gone. His heart had failed him and he passed away while taking an afternoon nap one day.

I cried that day. I didn’t know how someone so full of life could be gone in an instant. He hadn’t even graduated high school yet.

At his funeral, I sat holding the hand of one my best friends, both of us weeping for the life that was lost. I listened to the people who spoke of him and looked around at the hundreds of people that filled the room to support his family and to celebrate his life. People from school, church, karate, and more filled the chapel of the church that day. Jared’s homeroom teacher, a man with skin that always looked sunburnt and who displayed a stern disposition, spoke about the fun Jared injected into the class. His karate teacher, a short man with love in his eyes, talked about the dedication inherit in his character. His older brother, a shorter version of Jared, spoke of Jared’s love for all people. I don’t think anyone made it through the funeral with a dry eye.

It was during Jared’s funeral that I realized in his short life Jared had effected so many people, he had accomplished so much, he had made such a difference. We don’t know the span of our life or the lives of those around us, but that doesn't mean we should live in fear of it being cut short. We should live as Jared did, with a smile on our face and with all the gusto we can muster. 

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