When your friend passes away a day before his wedding

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’

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