But Isn’t That Always The Question?
Earlier this week a friend of my friend’s husband died. (Not the husband. His friend.)
It’s so physically disconnected from my own bubble of existence that I never would have known — never would have cared — if it weren’t for the voyeuristic world of Facebook. This slight tremor of the earth would have remained undetected by the radars whose boundaries define my reality, but instead, I could feel it.
And I think it might have tipped my axis.
Just a little.
See, my friend’s husband and his buddies are what you would call “adrenaline junkies” — men and women whose very core of emotional sustenance relies heavily — almost solely — on experiencing the rush that comes with dangerous physical activities. Defying death, it seems, is the best way they know how to sustain life.
His drug of choice is BASE jumping, the acronym standing for the various fixed objects from which one could… well… jump: Buildings, Antennas, Spans (bridges), and Earth (cliffs). Sometimes they sneak off to places in the middle of the night when the wind is right — places most “normal” people drive past or over without a second thought. Sometimes they travel to exotic locales where the scenery alone with its wild canyons and verdant jungles and sapphire waters and dissipating clouds and the climb itself would be enough.
Enough for most people.
But they’re not most people. For them, it’s only about the fall.
I’ve always known my friend’s husband was like this, and of course I’ve always been worried for her. What if something happened to him? What if he was seriously injured? What if… what if… what if… well. We won’t go there.
And every time I express this to her — every time I ask if it drives her mad — she just looks at me. Cooly, calmly, and smiles. Because it’s him. She could no more change this about him than the way he laughs when she says something funny or the number of girlfriends he’s had in the past.
And really, honestly, she wouldn’t want to.
So his friend just died. His BASE jumping buddy. He was found, it would seem, at the bottom of a mountain in some foreign range of which I’ve never heard. From what I understand, he was experienced. Knowledgeable. Loved what he did. Lived for it — and yes, died for it. On his Facebook page, while the messages to him — messages I can only hope he already felt while he was alive — have the undertone of confusion and grief, there’s something more. Obviously more.
They resonate joy.
Joy to have known him. Joy to have learned from him. Joy from those who knew that he loved what he did and he did it selfishly — without apology or regret. Something that, when it all comes down to it, garners nothing but respect.
I didn’t know him.
And yet, I feel like I missed out.
That’s the thing about that kind of person. About that kind of death.
It causes a confusing juxtaposition of emotion. He was lucky enough to know and live his passion, but his passion is what ended his life. Happy, sad. It makes us wonder. It makes me ask: Is it worth it? Would it be worth it?
Most of us will never know.
He died too soon, only 30.
But I’m willing to bet, based solely on the sentiments from those who knew him, that he lived more fully in those 30 years than most of us experience in a lifetime.
And probably yes, I think.
For that, it would be worth it.