First off, I would like to apologize for the gloomy story ahead, however it is something that I feel describes what has been going through my head the past few days in a meaningful way.
My family is what I like to call an “acquaintance family”. Not that I think this is a negative thing by any means, only that the way I see it, nearly everyone else that I have ever met has a closer relationship to their entire family than we do. We do not despise each other; we do not have grudges against extended family members. We just simply seem like (for the most part) acquaintances to anyone who doesn’t know us. That is how we have always been for as long as I can remember. There are topics that we do not discuss because we have all pretty much grown to accept that it is an unwritten rule to leave them taboo. Now, it should be clear that all of what I am saying is just from my point of view and how I see our family system, I am sure there is more than one family member who would disagree with me. Yes, my mom will have intimate conversations with me to see how things are going in my life and does HUGE favors for me that only a loving mother would, but for the most part, I can say that the Heydt’s are a group of acquaintances or friends on the surface.
I say this because I want to emphasize how minimal my interactions with my uncle were while he was living. I saw him maybe twice a year if I was lucky. He lived about two hours from where I grew up, which in hindsight does not seem like it was that far of a trip for us to take to visit more often, but that is neither here nor there. What is important to know is that other than his name, family, and what his favorite sports teams were, I hardly knew anything about him.
And yet, I feel as though the greatest life lesson that I have ever learned was through him. The only tragedy is that it required him to pass away for me to learn it.
A few years ago, my uncle had a brain aneurism while riding a train. A total stranger found him alone in his seat.
Days after his funeral, I had a feeling of guilt. I saw his friends and mother showing great deals of emotion over their loss, yet I felt nothing. Because I rarely interacted with him while he was alive, I felt as though I didn’t really know him. So when he passed it did not hit me like an emotional train that it seemed to do to others. At this point in time, I also realized that this was the first death in the family that I had to go through in which I was old enough to realize the gravity of it. Needless to say, these events forced me to reflect on much more than my life and myself.
A total stranger found him alone in his seat.
This is when I realized what the world can throw at you without your permission.
No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your relationship is like with your family, we could all pass away unexpectedly all alone in a seat…found by a total stranger.
I haven’t let this thought scare me. It has only encouraged me. Today’s society is filled with more negativity than anybody wants to deal with. There are people questioning you at every turn you take. Why do you want to do that? What makes you think you can accomplish something like that?
I must tell myself to answer “why not?!”
Because if we keep second-guessing ourselves into believing we cannot do what we want or that we cannot follow our dreams, we could all pass away unexpectedly, alone, and found by a total stranger before we ever have the chance to see what our dreams can grow into.
Ben Heydt is the Media Director for The Authenticity Project; you can contact Ben at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com.