February 20, 2012

"Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets." - Anonymous

Last week my high school classmate, Sylvan, passed away from a horrific snowboarding accident.  While I hadn’t seen Sylvan in many years, I, among the rest of his peers, I'm sure, remember him as the nicest guy in school who always had an enthusiastic smile and a friendly hello whenever you passed him in the hallway.  He was friendly to anyone, never seemingly motivated by the need to be popular or well liked.  Sylvan was just kind, with a genuinely sunny disposition and a positive outlook every time I spoke to him. 

I remember the first time I met him as a high school freshman, after having just moved back to town in the middle of the school year.  I recall thinking what a strikingly handsome guy he was with his bleach-blond hair, dark eyebrows, and big toothy smile.  I also remember being surprised at his easy friendliness for such a good-looking guy, because good-looking guys aren’t usually so nice. 

During our junior year, I got to know Sylvan better because he was part of the “basement crew,” a small group of us who partied in my basement.  He liked to affectionately call a few of us girls “Baby” during our parties, and we teased him for it.  I instinctively remember my friend Kate and I saying to him in our drunken stupor, “Sylvan, stop calling us baby,” and he would say back, “I’m sorry, Baby!  I’m sorry!”  “It’s okay, Sylvan,” I remember saying, adding teasingly, “Just don’t do it again."

While I regrettably didn’t stay in touch with him through the years, I am not surprised by the fanfare that has surrounded his unexpected and tragic passing, but am nevertheless amazed by it.  So many of his peers – close friends, acquaintances, and classmates  -- have all have risen to mourn the passing of a young man who left the world decades too soon, who was not only in the prime of his life but who ironically happened to have been killed doing something he loved so fearlessly and passionately.  Sylvan was living life to the fullest.

I know I am not alone as I reflect on Sylvan’s kind spirit and my short-lived memories of him from high school, but also on the kind of legacy that he left at such a young age.  I’m sure part of it has to do because of the tragic way his life was taken, but primarily I believe the fanfare ensuing from his unexpected death is the result of Sylvan being such a great person – the kind of rare individual who was friendly and kind to every person he met, never in order to gain something from it, be it friends or popularity or attention, but because he was so goodhearted and genuine, because quite simply that’s the only way he knew how to be.  While this is my perception of Sylvan based on knowing him from high school, I can only imagine that this rare quality had only ripened as he grew older and matured into a young man.  I’m sure that in his late 20s, Sylvan was an even better version of himself than when he was a teenager. 

All of this has gotten me reflecting on not only the kind of legacy we leave behind when we die, but also about the importance of living your best life every day.  “Life is short, and it is also long,” as my best friend CB says.  While having this awareness can create inner struggles with achieving the balance between a seemingly short life and a long one, we must find ways to indulge in life’s pleasures and continually seek means for self-betterment and self-growth for the long run. 

I believe the ultimate path to pursuing both is to look at the bigger picture, which I believe to be the gift of life.  Every day, every week, every month is a gift of life, don’t you agree?  If you were to die tomorrow, how would you live your life today?  Probably the fullest, most meaningful way possible, right?  That’s how Sylvan lived his life, and how we need to remind ourselves to lead our own lives too.  


Cheri said...

What a great tribute, Sarah. It's definitely a thought provoking post, too. Thank you for sharing!

Sarah said...

Thank you, Cheri. It's important to be thankful for the little things and to work on becoming a better person in the meantime, I think. :)