Lots of people have asked me what I think happens after death and, as my answer is “nothing, death is the end of all things”, I often get asked what I think life is worth, why live it when it turns unbearable, what is the point in it all if there is nothing afterwards.
My personal motivation for living is very simple: people.
Back in 1997, my sister had a friend who I interacted quite a bit with. Just due to life, they drifted apart after just a few months of being friends.
Early this year, thanks to the magic of Facebook, my sister could reunite with her friend, who commented on how he was just about to name his first daughter after me, cause I’d meant so much to him. In the end, they decided on the name of his wife’s grandmother, though.
Honestly, I would have never even imagined that someone would think of me to name their daughter, much less of someone who I had such a brief relationship with, and it was just through my sister.
People surprise me. Sometimes in a good way like this time, sometimes not so much.
When my aunt passed away about four years ago, I started seriously thinking about what happens after life ends, what is the purpose of living and under which basic principles should we live the one and brief life we have.
I think today I know the answer to those questions, or at least I know how I feel as a motivation to keep living.
Even though I find it hard to believe — because I have had more than once the intention of becoming a hermit — I think the purpose (for lack of a better word) of life is just the people around us.
When one lives and establishes relationships with other people, maybe inadvertently, one changes the course of things.
Every relationship, no matter how brief or insignificant we believe it is, affects and modifies actions, thoughts, and the lives of others. Sometimes we never realize just how important we are to others, sometimes we forget people, or we think a certain relationship was shallow or vain, but always, no matter how deep the bond has been, relationships affect people and changes their future.
Less than a week ago I lost a friend. I didn’t know I considered him a friend, I didn’t know just how important he’d been in my life, until I knew his end had come.
We met last year, we didn’t really have much time to get to know each other or to establish a deep friendship, but I know there was an emotional connection between us, and I know we shared things so deep and essential that I couldn’t possibly describe him as anything less than a friend.
When I heard the news, I didn’t feel too upset. I was surprised, I was sad, but I didn’t think the lack of his presence in the world would affect my life in the future, because we hadn’t seen each other in a few months, and we had lost touch a bit.
It wasn’t until two days after the tragic news that I finally understood what all had happened, and how that affected me.
Thursday night I remembered some of our conversations, I remembered his promise to do whatever was in his power to help me break away from the shackles society put on me. I remembered how sure he was about helping me, how he knew for a fact that I could be changed, and that he was going to cause that change.
It wasn’t until two days after his death that I realized it was because of him that I learned to deal with my differences, that I started living life based on my own morals, and not other peoples', that it was thanks to him that I discovered transgression was not only fun and exciting but also life changing.
Today I’m happy with myself, today I am not exactly the person I want to be but I’m close to becoming that person. And part of my progress is because of him, someone who I didn’t have many conversations with, but who I did have long and meaningful conversations with, a person who I can’t say I got to know completely, a relationship as brief as it was important.
So then I knew his life hadn’t been in vain, nobody’s life is in vain. If a few months of friendship were so influential in my life, then I’m sure a lot of the relationships he had with others were even more so. And his importance in my life is also influential in everyone I relate to now, and from now on. So the endless chain of influences that his short life caused is, to me, a lot more important than any other hypothesis about the afterlife.
I live for life itself. I live for everyone I know, because I know my presence in the world is not worthless, because I know even though sometimes relationships are brief, or shallow, or even if they don’t end in the best of terms, it’s never the same to have had them than to have not.
It is impossible for me to explain to people how I feel about them. Not because I don’t have the ability to express my feelings, but because there are no words that can represent them.
What I feel for each and every one of the people I relate to, even if it’s for a brief period of time, varies from person to person, of course, but in every case it is something that stays with me, and many times I wish I could just tell them how important they are in my life, and sometimes I wish I knew what I mean to them.
Today I feel I may have ignored some of the relationships I had throughout my life. Today I wish some of those people who are no longer close to me (physically or emotionally), for any reason, would come back to my life.
Today I miss the friend I lost. Today I want to have him in front of me and tell him his life is much more important than he thinks. Today I want him to not have gone away, today I want to tell him his presence in this world is more important than he could ever imagine.
Today I want to bond again and explain how I feel. I want to tell the world that I do care, even though sometimes it seems like I care more about myself than the rest. Today I’d like to make them see that it is because of them that I go on living, because of how they affect me, because of how they make me feel, and because of how I may affect them.
I don’t know where my life is going from now on. I don’t know which of the people I consider friends will stick around, and which of them will just fade away, but I know there is not one person who I’ve had a relationship with who hasn’t affected me, changed me in one way or another.
So if today I were to end it all, if it were the last day of my life, I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to tell them just what they all mean to me.
* The Doors: When The Music's Over.
** Dedicated to the memory of Nico Arrigoni.