As I sit here with just a couple of weeks remaining in the semester, I sit living and dying. Celebrating life and in the reality that death comes.
Life can be like a riddle, and as I sit in a time of transition for myself I celebrate the old and the new. The good and the bad meet on the road and make me who I am at this point in time. I cannot change the past and I cannot completely anticipate what the future holds for me, so I make a choice, to live and to be. This past weekend we celebrated the life of a wonderful human being. Aastik Pokhrel. Aastik was a senior my first year at Hanover and our paths did not cross much but I remember thinking "wow what a wonderful person to just be around." Last year my friend Mera introduced me to Aastik again, and in a short conversation I realized that Aastik was more than just a wonderful person for me to be around, he was a wonderful person for the world to be around. Aastik had a heart unlike any I had seen. His smile could brighten the room, his sense of humor could bring a laugh at any time, and his love for the world gave everyone hope.
In remembering and celebrating the life of Aastik, I thought about where I am in my life. Choosing life, choosing to move forward, choosing to be the person God has called me to be and yet dying to the old self, dying to the person the world has created out of me, dying to the expectations of my family, and dying to the expectations of being a product of the south end of Louisville. Life over death, living over dying. It seems like such a simple choice and one that Aastik taught all of us a little something about. Choosing life, choosing to live and to live in the promises of God is not easy. It is hard work, but it is work that makes this world a little brighter, smiles a little bigger, and hearts fill up with love. Living means confronting the things we must die to in order to live fully. Confronting injustice, confronting those who do not love, loving those who feel unloved, providing for those who have nothing, making something of ourselves when the world says we are nothing, and picking ourselves up when we fall down. Living. Dying. The two go hand in hand.
What I found remarkable this weekend was that even in his death Aastik was living. Because what he stood for and what he lived for gave life and continues to give life. So many people were touched by his smile, by his laugh, by his gentle being that his living brings about the best death, the death that calls us to leave behind this world and live into people who are not living for themselves, but who are living for the benefit of others.
As I dust myself off, as I move forward and choose to live, I will always remember Aastik's smile and laugh. I will remember the friends whose lives he has touched, the community who dearly loves and misses him, and the lessons he taught through his actions. I will remember that the dying going on inside me and around me is not just a necessary evil, but it is something that is propelling life, not just for me but for the world.
If there is one thing in life that never gets old, it is saying goodbye to people long before I should have to. And so, as I celebrate Aastik and the life he has given me, so too do I celebrate Aaron and Kalyn and Lindsey and Max and Emily. Some were younger than others, but each has shaped my life, each taught me a lesson about love and hard work, about being who I am and not who others want me to be. It doesn't make their deaths right, or easy, or okay...nothing ever will...but I must choose to live, to live as the person God has called me to be. To live in joy and to live knowing I am loved. I must choose to die, to die to the world and its standards. To set my own standards of justice, love, and hope...to live into those things and to never look back. To never regret missed opportunities but to cherish every last moment I have with those I love and those who love me and challenge me.
Living. Dying. Life. Death.