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A Friend of Mine Died

A friend of mine died the other day.

The last time I saw him was in December. We bumped into each other at an art exhibition in town—an annual event for children in need we once organized together—and he pulled me aside and said, “Adam, I have cancer. But I’m not ready to die.”

This man—he was Japanese and spoke no English—was not only a good partner for the benefit work we began, he was a genuinely good man. He was the kind of selfless, smiling person that I continue trying to become.

The thing is, I felt a special kinship with him, too, because we had the same birthday. I mean, the same birthday: we weren’t just born on the same day, we were born on the same day in the same year. I can’t recall anyone else I’ve met personally, throughout my life, with the very same birthday.

We worked together on the art exhibition for several years, but as we both became busier with the rest of our lives, we handed over the event to others. And as several more years passed, we rarely saw one another.

So when I ran into him in December, I was delighted…and then disheartened to hear his news. I squeezed his shoulder and we made vague plans to celebrate our birthday together this past June. But we never really did socialize outside of our work, and the idea never materialized.

That was my first regret when I heard that he died: Why didn’t I try harder to reach out to him when I had the chance?

Then came my second regret: I know how brief, how precious our lives are, and yet somehow I’m constantly forgetting. Why can’t I remember this more firmly, the most important thing of all? Isn’t it time I was more mindful of being alive?

Since my friend passed away, I wake each morning and whisper: seize the day.

This is my vow, to seize each new day, however many more I have, and live them as fully, as consciously, as I can. I’ll still forget, again and again, but I’ll work harder to remember.

The fact is, as I mentioned in the story of my son’s brush with death, our lives can turn at any moment. And, sooner or later, they will. My friend was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago—before that moment, he gave no more thought to this possibility than you or I right now.

Today, though, we have another chance to live and love and leave our children the best we can give—including the gift of language.

Seize the day.


11 Responses

  1. I am so, so sorry for your loss, Adam! I wish I had something poignant to say. That friend of yours must have been really special, with the same birthday! Losing somebody is always hard, but I think since you saw him just a year ago, it must have been even harder- so much can change in just a year. Wish you strength, Adam- all the best from the Netherlands. Your post hit me hard and I’ll be thinking about your words a lot.

  2. Dear Adam,

    Such a touching and important post, I’m very sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing this with us. I absolutely agree with you and try to remember to both seize the day and be really grateful for what I have everyday. Just recently I came across this poem and it became my favorite right away:

    all the best from Finland, Annika and family

  3. My condolences, Adam. That must be hard. Thank you for sharing the experience in order to remind us how important it is to seize the day. I know I need a lot of reminding.

  4. Dear Adam, Sorry to hear of your loss. I agree about the seize the day bit….2 months ago my (Japanese) husband got hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing just around the corner from our place. Was basically in a coma for 3 weeks and is now in a rehabilitation centre (Auckland). Should be okay eventually but it does make you think….you don’t know what is coming around the corner….
    I am doing my best to read Japanese books to the kids! The bilingual thing will be a challenge for a while….!

    1. Thanks to you all. I’m grateful for the warm thoughts.

      And Liz, I’m so sorry about your husband. Stay strong and know that he and your family are in our prayers.

  5. I am so very sorry for your loss. And you say understanding that loss is what drives you further forward. Having my own personal experience with cancer, I can say it really can make your life better when you know just how fragile it is.

  6. Adam, I’m so sorry for your loss. Life is a moment. We often forget that and sometimes bad things happen to remind us to slow down a bit and enjoy every single moment with our family and friends. It is very sad to hear about your friend, it can happen to any of us and thank you for sharing, it makes me think of my life.

    1. Vesna, thank you for your kind words. The idea of “appreciating our lives” is something we tend to forget when we’re so busy moving through our days. It’s something I’m trying to remember more now, and in fact, lately I stop and look at my kids and I think: “Wow, that’s my son. That’s my daughter. We don’t have forever, so make this moment count.”

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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