When Your Friend Passes Away A Day Before His Wedding

After my Brother passed away, it felt like I was dropped into a world where I didn't speak the language. I spent months wandering through the fog trying to get through each day without completely unraveling. No one knew what to do, what to say or how to act. That is one of the reasons I decided to be open and transparent with my loss. It took countless books and help from a professional to remove the guilt I felt when I laughed or felt joy.

Mortality is a very complicated beast. It's so easy to get lost in day to day life, to get caught up trying to make ends meet. That quest to make our lives mean something is overwhelming. I want to introduce you my brilliant friend and co-worker Tian He because he has written something so important, honest and vulnerable that I had to share it with all of you.

When Your Friend Passes Away A Day Before His Wedding

By Tian He

Over the weekend, a friend passed away in a fatal car accident one day before his wedding.

When you first hear news like that a million questions come to mind.

How does his family and closest friends go from celebrating the happiest day in his life to mourning the end of it within 24 hours? How do his parents feel? What about his fiancée? How does everyone cope?

After the initial onslaught, you orient yourself, take it all in, and think.

Inevitably, this thought comes to mind: ‘What if my life ends just as unexpectedly? Tomorrow.’

When that question hit me, it brought back a lot of emotions.

For much of my early twenties, I was obsessed with the idea of success.  Work/life balance was heavily weighted towards work.  Work was the way to leave my lasting impression on the world, it was the way to make my parents proud, and my chance to separate from the crowd.  I dreamed big and wanted to change the world.

Much of my late twenties was consumed in trying to fulfill that quest.  The startup I cofounded was going to succeed.  Nothing was going to get in my way.

I had hobbies that I enjoyed, but that would take away from company time.  Well there’s time for play later.

I had amazing friends, but I was always too busy to hang out with them.  They can have fun without me.

I had parents who cared deeply about my well-being, but I was too stressed to give them the reassurance that they needed.  Unconditional love.

I met a girl I loved, but anything related to the company is bigger than the two of us.  She’ll understand.

Then after many months of making sacrifices and living in a haze, I looked around.  I wondered why I was feeling down all the time, why I was so apathetic to everything, why my toes were crossed so tight against each other each time I tried to unwind.  I was closer than ever to achieving success, but I couldn’t be further away from happiness.

I realized that I’d had the wrong definition of success all along.  That real success is when I can be content and at peace with all of my choices, everyday.  To achieve that, I needed to live a balanced life that represented every facet of what I believed in.  I needed to take care of myself, build relationships and memories with the important people in my life, AND I needed to still progress in my career and make a difference.

For the past two years, I’ve worked towards this better version of my life and myself by trying as much as possible to live in the present.  I am glad to say I am happier than ever.

For Yan, the last moments of his life were filled with joy and optimism. He was loved by many, successful by any measure, healthy, and happy.

Yan passed away at one of the pinnacles of his life. And because of that, I feel a certain level of happiness for him. He maximized his life and lived it to it’s full potential. He is a role model for how we all should strive to live.

To Yan’s family, fiancée, and friends, please accept my deepest condolences. Remember the good times, smile, stay strong and keep Yan’s spirit alive. Let’s honor Yan by living the best life we can.

- The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift—that’s why they call it ‘the present’

This piece appeared originally on Carpelada on August 10, 2015.

Live for today. Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.

1 Comment

Kelly Roberts

It all started when a silly joke made headlines back in 2014 when I took selfies with hot guys “hottie hunting” my way through the New York City Half Marathon. But ironically enough, I haven't always been a runner. As the self-proclaimed former President of the "I f*cking hate running club", I spent most of my life finding ways to avoid physical activity. Growing up, I missed over 70 days of PE my senior year. Working out was something I thought I had to suffer through in order to lose weight. 

Then, in 2009, my younger brother passed away unexpectedly and struggling to manage my grief, I gained more than 75 pounds. With the weight gain came a new fight to regain my sense of self and learn to love the body I saw when I looked in the mirror. Then one Thanksgiving morning, drowning in grief and self doubt, I decided to go for a run. I didn't make it half way down my street before I had to stop to walk but for some reason, struggling forward made more sense than getting back into bed. It turns out that running is a lot like grief, neither ever really get easier, you just get stronger. 

Over time, I realized that while some people are in fact born runners, others are made. I created this blog Run, Selfie, Repeat and my new podcast by the same name with the hopes to inspire others to say yes to themselves while making them laugh hysterically because laughing, in my opinion, is the solution to everything. 

Named by Women's Running as one of twenty women who are changing the sport of running and by Competitor Magazine as one of 12 Influential and inspiring runners under 30, my mission is to inspire others to get embrace a healthy lifestyle and pursue the strongest version of themselves possible.