Eric Wiley

Life or Death

I couldn’t look for very long. His skin was bluish, and his hand was cold to the touch. The makeup they put on his face couldn’t hide the evidence from anyone who looked at him. Kim was gone from our lives. He laid there just as still as could be without any of his former energy and spirit we saw in his body before.

Is it really possible for our lives to be that fragile all the time? Must our lives be in such a constant state of uncertainty? Can we really vanish in the blink of an eye with no real reason? This is not something I ever wanted to face. My life is no different from his. Could this thing happen to me as well.

I turned to see his mother crying next to me. I reached over and offered my hand to comfort her. She took it and quickly embraced me in a hug. There was no way in which my tears and sadness couldn’t come out. We hugged for a long time, but we both needed it. One of the best people we had both known had died.

No mother wants to be around when her child dies. Especially not when you are as close to him as she was to Kim. Yet, she knew this day would come. Kim’s father had died about 10 years prior, and their family was informed that they had a genetic heart problem that would likely claim the lives of both the two sons earlier than normal for the average person. Still, no one could see this coming. One morning, Kim just didn’t get up. He laid there and just never got up. His mother knew immediately that her eldest son was dead.

When we finally released our embrace, I looked around at the rest of the funeral guests. The place was packed. The funeral parlor, where the ceremony was held, was overflowing. I don’t think they expected this many people for any funeral. There were people from all aspects of Kim’s life; from high school teachers to softball players, they were all there. If you were to come walking in from the streets on this funeral ceremony, you would have to think that whoever had died must have been a pillar of society or at least someone well known. Maybe you would have been right. Kim touched more people than you could possible imagine. Not through making speeches around the country or through being in the public spotlight, but just by being himself and allowing others to enjoy themselves. Anyone you would talk to, who knew Kim, would tell you of only fun and enjoyable times. He was the life of the party at all times. Always there to make someone laugh and smile. You could bet that he could never be in a room without making everyone become happy.

You really have to start wondering about your own life after seeing the death of such a marvelous person. In fact, I have on numerous occasions started to think about just what would happen if I were to die just like Kim. I can’t help but wonder if people could actually look back at my life and say the same things they say about Kim. Has my life been worthwhile? Can I say that I have made a difference in anyone’s life? Have I accomplished my purpose in this life? You are forced into the reality that you need to live as Kim lived once he realized that his life would be shorter than everyone else’s. Everything you do should bring out the side that people should remember. We have to try not to lie around passively, but rather to be out and about actively engaging everything within our grasp. If a life can be taken so quickly, we must make the most of what we have with each other.

In my many long talks with Kim’s mother after the funeral and in the years to come, we discussed many things, but the topic always returned to Kim. She was always concerned with what Kim could be doing now. Now, you may believe whatever you want about life after death, heaven, hell, or even reincarnation, but never underestimate the power that faith in these things can have for a grieving person. As I always tell her in our conversations, Kim must have gone to a great place. He would be delighted to know that so many people cared for him and that he touched so many lives. He must be looking down on us smiling, knowing that he will never be forgotten or set aside as just one of the crowd in all of our minds. She now dreams of Kim and finds comfort in everything she sees. Never does the dream come back with anything bad. Whenever she dreams of Kim, it is always something pleasant, like him showing her his new baby, or seeing him engaged in some recreational activity. All this is helping her get through the void that his departure has left her.

I admit that this belief is all that keeps me going as well often times. Knowing that there is a place where we will all find peace and harmony is the one thing that keeps me believing that our life is worth living. I can see Kim always up above laughing having a great time with his father, and all the time waiting for us all to come up and join him. We can all never wait. But in the meantime, we have to focus on this world.

The death of someone like this forces you to look for meaning in everything. Life and death are just two things that we are forced to deal with. Our lives can be torn away just like Kim’s was. All we can do is hope for the best and try to accomplish as much as we can in our life. Kim was able to do that, and we are all disappointed that he wasn’t able to continue his magical ability to touch those around him longer than he did. Just imagine how much good he could have done if he could have lived past the age of 20.