When was the last time you contacted your friends? I don’t mean write them via Facebook Messenger app, although if the person lives overseas that Messenger sure comes in handy! When have you actually spoken to them or seen them? “I need to call so-and-so, it’s been a long time since we have been in contact.”
I really don’t believe in text conversations unless they are necessary for a valid reason, but on the night of January 11, I was having a VERY funny text conversation! Then my phone beeped with a Messenger alert. A close friend from the Bahamas, Elbert, had written me, “Sad news.” I thought, what now? I figured it was something mildly “sad” – but not tragic. He then proceeded to write that the body of a mutual friend of ours, Damien, who I’ve known more than 10 years, had been found beaten to death in Nassau! What??? I immediately texted my first friend that I would continue our conversation later! I went from giggling to being stunned, shocked and overcome with grief. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I dialed Elbert for more details – this situation required real conversation! Messaging was too cumbersome.
I met Damien Miller years ago, as we were both members of Toastmasters International’s District 47, composed of Florida and the Bahamas. Damien is from Nassau, Bahamas, a sweet young man whose smile would light up a room, a business owner, and a dynamic, award-winning speaker and leader in his Toastmasters District. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, since a past Toastmasters Conference, but we were in contact during October 2016 when Hurricane Matthew ravaged both our countries.
Just before Thanksgiving weekend, Damien contacted me to say he would be in Orlando that holiday weekend, so let’s get together! I was preparing to leave town so I didn’t have much time to spare, but we got together for a few hours on the afternoon of Sunday, November 27. Damien was so excited to see me! There seems to be an extra joy when visits happen unexpectedly. I wanted to take him to Universal CityWalk that night, but I did not have the time. Now, I wish I had made the time. He said he would come back in 2017 and we’d go! We also talked about some of his future plans and he said that he wanted to wait on some until his financial situation was better. I said, why wait for life? Seize the day! We parted ways with hugs, promising each other to go to CityWalk on his next visit.
Damien celebrated his 37th birthday on December 20, 2016. He was last seen on the morning of December 28, 2016. I don’t know when they found the body, but it was decomposed to a point that identification took until the second week of January 2017. Thanks to Facebook and other means, the news was spreading among Toastmasters friends the night of January 11, 2017.
I have known people who have died from cancer, but that you can see coming and prepare for. I have known people, actually two co-workers, who passed away suddenly from health issues, two weeks apart. Talk about a department being traumatized, we found out about the second death on the day of the first’s funeral! But to know a young, healthy person in the prime of life cut down by violence, was more than my spirit could take. I found myself sobbing over the senselessness of it. What made it even more bittersweet was that I had just seen him only six weeks earlier! I am grieved that he suffered this horrible death and hope for the guilty to be caught.
I am so glad that I saw this young man in November. The irony was that we had been talking about future events and future plans, that now were not going to come to pass. I regret not somehow finding the time to go out to CityWalk with him.
Damien’s funeral service was yesterday and Elbert, along with many Toastmasters District and Regional leaders, attended the service. Elbert shared with me the pastor’s sermon message: “Make the most of your time on this earth for a fruitful life! Make every moment and day count. Live every day as if it’s your last.” Damien did that for sure.
I echo this message and remind you now: cherish everyone and every moment every day and not put off the joys of life until a future day that may not come. Seize the day!
I also learned that I need to check Facebook more often. This past Thursday night I logged in to discover that another friend, a former hairdresser of mine, had been found dead of a heart attack last Saturday! I had missed his funeral service, which was during the day on Thursday. Rennie would have been 59 next month.
What??? This is not the way to start a New Year!
I decided last night to call one of my friends to see how he was and tell of the recent events. My New Year’s resolution: I’m going to be making a lot more phone calls!
Take time to appreciate your loved ones and make every moment count. Seize the day. It is a gift and why we call it – the present.