Two days ago, on January 10th, a woman I once knew named Lillian Feng passed away.
I did not know Lillian well, we never spent time together outside of school, or became the type of friends that would attend each others birthday parties. But regardless, she played a character in my life.
I had known her through our high school band back in Davis, CA, and a joint Japanese class I took throughout junior high and high school. She was a year younger than me. To be truthful, I had not even known that she proceeded to attend the same college as me (UC Santa Barbara). But as I sit here, thinking about her life, I remember a kind girl.
She was quiet, rather small in stature, and always sat with her knees up. She loved to draw, and was very good at it. She did not say much in the classes we shared at Davis Senior High School, but you would recognize her and regard her as someone who cared. She was someone who showed more through herself than her words. Compassionate by every definition, and this you could notice from the very moment you met her.
It overbears my heart to imagine that her life is no longer the same. It troubles my mind to think that we once sat right next to each other, laughing and cringing at the things teenagers do.
Her presence has abruptly ended, and some speculate that she ended it herself.
Although I am in no position to conclude that these assumptions are true, and have no intentions of doing so, it sobers me to consider the brutal reality of someone deciding that they no longer want to live.
And it makes me writhe in frustration, passion, at the thought of a world that lets people take their own lives. The thought of a world that lets us look the other way. Because if we put things under a simple lens, we are all responsible for each other. There is not one interaction we have with another person that does not matter. Whether we choose to connect with someone, help someone, or push someone aside in the self-focused attitudes that we so often think we can justify, we do make a difference. Those people, who we forget exist as people themselves, are being directly affected by our choices and actions.
So what the hell are we doing?
It is natural to find ourselves in instances in which we might want to push people away. But is it really that big of a deal, or that much of an inconvenience to choose the other path? The biggest thing that makes someone unpleasant usually has nothing to do with the person themselves, but something to do with whatever’s going on inside of us. And whatever that is, we should have total control over. Its just not worth it, considering how positively life-changing connecting with someone can be, for both the connector and the connected.
And I’m not only talking about strangers, or people we find ourselves avoiding. I’m also talking about our families, best friends, coworkers … Put down the phones and talk. Talk to the person in front of you, and not about what you ate for breakfast. See how they’re doing on a more substantial basis than “good” or “bad”. Talk about life, and remember that you’re talking to a life full of their own dreams, expectations, and anxieties. Find out what miracles and ideas they have to offer, and communicate your own.
Because in a world where suicide kills more than any other illness, and the word “depression” is heard in every mode of conversation, human connection may be running low. And its completely up to us whether we do something about it or not.
I hope we can remember, every day, that connecting with the people around us is the most important and powerful thing we can do. My thoughts go out to Lillian’s family, and everyone else who has lost and will lose a character in their lives.
Lillian, I wish I had gotten to know you far more than I did. I wish I could have spent countless hours talking to you, falling in love with you, and letting you know how much you meant to me as a friend. I wish I could have discovered all of the amazing things I now know you were. To have had the opportunity to miss you, think of you, and delight in your humor. To have had the chance to say hello, even as just a passerby.
Because you are an amazing woman, and will never be forgotten. Although I am saying goodbye, I feel as though I am also saying my first hello. I see you, and I love you. I just wish I had been able to earlier.