Losing someone close


He worked, he worked, he worked and he died - another goodbye to a dear friend.

When someone you love and respect becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure. A very good friend of mine just became a memory at just 49 years old. He leaves behind young children which is as much of a tragedy as his own passing.

I cried on the inside when I heard he had died. I guess tears have a purpose all their own. They come when a person is able to let go and to work through their sorrow. Tears are the bleeding of an emotional wound, carrying the grief out of us. I’ve bled way too much for one life time.

Like my colleague who leaves behind young children, I lost my father when I was only fifteen years old. I was still a kid at the time, so I didn’t remember him the way other people do who knew their parents through adulthood. Growing up, I told myself that maybe I was lucky. Because you can’t miss someone you don’t remember clearly like other people do. But the truth was, I did miss my father and growing up without a dad is incredibly hard regardless of how loving your mother is. For my friend’s children, losing their father at such a young age will scar them for life.

I had warned this colleague many times about being so career driven. For him, it was always work life balance, not life work balance.

He said he pushed so hard because in the end it was all for his kids. My father did the same thing. He missed so many summer vacations because of work and so many of our happiest days captured in photos growing up our father was absent.

The same will likely hold true for my friend’s family photos. Summarizing ones life in the words he worked, he worked, he worked, and he died is a tragedy onto itself.

Both my friend and my father had so much in common. They died before the age of 50, but lived a life of achievement unparalleled. Sometimes as a kid I wondered if my father had a moment before he died when he knew his life was coming to an end. I wondered then what might have been going through his mind. I now know that he didn’t think of anything he accomplished in his life and he must have simply passed in the fear of not knowing what would become of his children.

For both my father and my friend they were both incredibly brilliant and driven individuals. Beautiful families left mostly forsaken for their focuses on career achievement. God gave them everything except length of years.

The saddest part about losing someone close to you comes down to this simple realization. In three words, I can sum up everything I have learned about loss: life goes on. Those that leave us, early or not, quickly become a memory and are relegated to a part of our past. The future, and dreams for that matter, only belong to those who have a journey to continue.

One day we will all become a memory to the people whose lives we’ve touched. For my friend who left us way too early, thank you for leaving behind so many good memories.

But, you like my father, left us way too soon. For all those hours I sat next to you in meetings, I am left with the sadness that I never really got to know you. From what I saw, you were an amazing human being. What I had wished for was to have known you better and to have had you as a friend for life. Not the reality of sitting next to you day in and day out in meetings whose subject matter is now long forgotten.

For all of you reading this, walk away with this life lesson. No one on his deathbed is ever thinking I should’ve worked harder. We all have finite lives living as if we will live forever. We won’t, and tomorrow’s sunrise is not a given. One day we all become someone’s memory. Strive to be a good one. That’s really all we leave behind.

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© Khaled F. Sherif, 2020

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