It’s very easy to see actors who have died young and feel that it must be real rough to be an actor. These are people like Chris Farley, John Belushi, River Phoenix, and more recently actors such as Brad Renfro, and of course, Heath Ledger.
Of course, people die young all the time, and sometimes through overdoses or some other health issue. But since so many people have been entertained by younger actors’ work, it’s easy to notice their death more than others who may not have been famous when they died.
One of the hardest non-family member deaths I had ever had to endure was that of my best friend growing up. His name was Aaron, and he literally lived in a house just behind mine on a different street. It was always fun to hang out with Aaron, because not only was he someone who cared deeply about his friends and treated his friends like kings whenever they were around, but he also had the biggest yard in the neighborhood which was great especially for a kid like me whose total yard is about the size of most people’s closets.
When I moved to Florida in 1996, not long after we graduated from high school, we didn’t get to stay in touch as much as we used to when we were kids. But that’s typical. The last time I saw him was at the wedding of one of our mutual friends in 2000 who also lived in the neighborhood, but he didn’t end up coming to the reception, and I ended up sitting with his wonderful parents there instead.
Then in March 2001, I got a phone call from my younger sister. Aaron had been found dead that morning after suffering what was believed to be a stomach aneurysm. I was in total shock, as any friend would be. This was someone I knew practically since kindergarten, who I have a lot of childhood memories of — including the time he saved the life of me and a few other friends on our senior prom night — and someone I once thought in second grade was actually an angel because of how amazing he was. And just like that, he was no longer with us.
Although we all know that the only guaranteed event to happen in our life is death, it’s still very difficult for us to say good-bye to the people that we love. I am not very comfortable with death, especially my own. I would like to believe there is more to my existence (and anyone’s existence) following the death of our physical bodies, but it’s really hard to imagine if that’s really the case, or if we’ll just cease to exist.
A few years ago, I had some serious health issues to the point where my doctor said it would be absolutely amazing if I made it to 30. To be honest, I don’t know if it was really that bad or not, but it was enough to get me to consider surgery that my doctor had been pushing for some time, and I finally did it. Now I’m 31, and working to get healthy — not from any type of condition or illness, but from simply being out of shape — and enjoying life every single day.
You never know — no matter how healthy you are — when you’ll wake up in the morning and that will be the final time you do that. The final time you eat breakfast. The final time you enjoy the company of your friends, or your significant other. The final time you’ll get to enjoy an episode of “Star Trek” or debate with someone online about a topic dear and close to your heart.
You also don’t know when it will be the last time to achieve the goals you have set in life. I know I still have a lot of goals I want to reach before my body finally decides to take up space in a pine box in the ground. And my motivation a few years ago remains strong, reinforced every time we hear about the tragic loss of someone close to us, or someone we simply enjoyed on the movie screen.
When I was a kid, I was enthralled in quotations, the fact that over the centuries, people said something so profound that they were being quoted about it ever since. I really wanted to be someone who said something profound, worthy of being repeated even long after I’m gone, so I came up with what some may look at as my cheesy quotable. But it does bear repeating here. So here you go.
“You’ve waited your entire life to live this very day today, so live it well.”
— Michael Hinman
May not be a quotation anyone has ever heard of, but it’s something that means a lot to me, and something that I carry with me every day.
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Michael Hinman, a 22-time winner of the British lottery and heir to three Nigerian fortunes, is the founder and site coordinator for Airlock Alpha, writing out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org