Monday, August 28, 2017

The Impact of a Life and Books for the Grieving

For those of you thinking I dropped off the face of the earth -well, I kind of did.

In July, I lost one of my best friends -Mage- after a car crash and I'm having a hard time getting my feet back under me. Mage -I only ever called him Mage- has been a constant companion of mine for five years and the best friend I could ever ask for.

Mage was my favorite person to talk to. He was a great guy; funny, kind, smart, and probably the nerdiest human being I have ever known. He cared about people and he loved God; he was eloquent and a great writer, always ready to defend his views with a poignant and cleverly-worded argument, be it political, religious, or on his loathing of The Legend of Korra and the new Star Wars canon. Despite his unshakable views and staunch defense of them, he told me once he’d much rather lose an argument than a friend and I admired him for all of this. I always wanted to discuss politics and religion with him -two of his favorite subjects of conversation- but I never had the guts because my knowledge base was woefully inferior to his. Instead, we discussed writing, mythology, and our favorite fictional universes. We never ran out of things to talk about, even when we weren’t talking about anything particular at all. I've been truly blessed to have his friendship in my life and I plan to continue on being blessed by it.

Surprisingly, perhaps fittingly, one of my greatest comforts in coming to terms with this loss and the questions that arose from it came from something Mage himself once told me. While discussing and analyzing a film, I mentioned being disappointed in a certain character's unsatisfactory death, how I wish there had been more to it. He said: “...remember, sometimes death doesn't serve a greater purpose in-story (although it should impact other characters...”

In the past few weeks, I have come to realize that the impact of Mage's life and death -whether it will be significant or detrimental- is completely up to me. I can choose to let this loss break me or I can choose to let it develop me into a better person. It is not an easy choice, nor does it always feel like a choice, but it IS. 

Before I met Mage, I was mostly an outskirts kind of fan; I liked Star Wars, but I never dove headfirst into Star Wars fiction and lore outside of the films because there was no one to talk to about it. I have a hard time investing time into something I know will only get me eye-rolls when I try to discuss it, and I always want to discuss it. I only met Mage because the one thing I didn't feel self-conscious obsessing over was Avatar: The Last Airbender; we met on an ATLA fanfiction website, of all places. I recently came across something I wrote six years ago, talking about how my ‘inner fangirl’ was showing and I laughed. Six years ago, I insisted my fangirl was inner; I kept her on the inside because I was embarrassed to show her to people who couldn’t relate to the things I loved. I couldn’t stand that eye-roll when people thought I was spending ridiculous amounts of brain-power on something so unimportant as a nerdy fandom. I hated how their eyes glazed over when I started talking about the intricacies of something I loved that they didn’t care about.

Mage did two things that had a huge impact on me:
First, he listened. He not only listened, he discussed those same intricacies with just as much enthusiasm as me. More, even. Mage was a bigger nerd than I ever was, my Jedi Master, my comics guru. Second, is that he did it all with a blazing self-confidence in his nerdiness -too, in his faith and his opinions- that I envied and to this day try to adopt. I don’t have an ‘inner fangirl’ anymore; I AM a fangirl. I’m a geek and a nerd and I don’t care if they roll their eyes or stop listening to my nerdy rambles because this is me. I own it, and I am working at becoming just as confident in other aspects of my life.

It is, of course, better to have someone to share your interests and obsessions with. Right now, these wonderful, nerdy things meant to be happy are bottling up inside me with no where to go and no one to share them with. So I’m going to blog about them. I’ve discussed a lot of these things at length already on the blog -namely MCU, comics, and Star Wars- but I expect I’ll be writing more on them in the future. Mage has also left me with a rather lengthy list of recommendations -movies, shows, anime, comics, and books- and I’d like to blog about progressing through those as well. I may not be able to share and discuss these things with Mage, but I can certainly share and discuss them here.

The best way I know how to cherish and honor his memory -how to ensure the impact he has on me- is to adopt the beautiful qualities I admired about him into my own life. He has already helped me become more self-confident and he taught me how valuable it is to be willing to listen. Everything I admired about him, everything I respected, I want to emulate it all. I want to be the kind of person that Mage was.

For now, I can only take one day at a time and do what I have promised so many times these past weeks: To continue cherishing our friendship despite and outside of my sorrow; to ensure he has made a good and significant impact on my life; and to have faith that I will see him again someday.

I almost said I'd try to do what I've promised, but Yoda came to mind:
“Do or do not. There is no try.”

For those of you who may also be dealing with loss, there are a few books I can recommend:

  • The Bible, specifically Psalms.
  • A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis -While I do not agree with a lot of his religious conclusions, this book illustrates the process of grieving through Lewis’ own words and experience, through stages of anger, hopelessness, and -finally- acceptance. This had a profound impact on me, if only to assure me that I was not alone in the things I was feeling and thinking, and Lewis provides consolation on questions we both struggled with.
  • Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe by Menachem Mendel Schneerson -A book of Jewish doctrine and philosophy, it sets out to teach just as the title implies: how we can live meaningful lives. I would encourage everyone to read this at some point in their lives -whether or not they are Jewish or even particularly religious at all- because it demonstrates how we can be better, kinder people. This book helped me come to terms with many of the impossible questions I had about death and Mage’s death in particular; while the sections entitled Death and Grief and Pain and Suffering offered some consolation, it was the sections on Faith and Reason, Good and Evil, and Miracles that offered comfort and understanding.
  • The Committed Life by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis -This, too, is a book I recommend everyone read at least once, as it shares advice through uplifting stories for living well and becoming the best ‘you’ you can be. I have read this a few times already, but several stories offered considerable comfort and advice, such as If Only and Sometimes the Answer is No.
  • The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz -This is the odd one out, I know. (Pun intended, by the way.) A speculative murder, borderline horror series about a man who can see ghosts and demons isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you’re looking for something to battle grief, but Odd deals throughout the series with his own grief and loss, and he does it in such a beautiful, even uplifting way. Despite moments of doubt or sorrow, Odd Thomas is always, without fail, staunch in his belief that he can be reunited with his lost loved one in the next life; that belief drives him to do good, to be the best person he can be, and to do the right thing in the face of all his trials, and that is a beautiful way to cope with such a loss.

For those of you who have suffered or are suffering grief, I'm sorry for your loss. Find the people who will listen to you and talk with them, even when it's hard. Let them hug you when you cry. I would hug you, too, if there weren't the screens between us. Loss is a part of every life, but knowing its inevitability hardly makes it easier to handle. Hold onto God, hold onto your faith, cherish your loved ones, and remember that the impact the departed have on your life -on all of our lives- is part of the legacy they leave behind.

In closing, please drive safe and be careful on the road. I encourage you all to further your driving education on your own. I myself take a Defensive Driving course every few years through work based on the Smith System, with their Five Keys for safer driving, filled with simple steps to help you drive more safely and to equip you with the skills to avoid being hit by those who aren't driving safely. The #1 thing to remember is to be aware of your surroundings.

God bless.


  1. I'm sorry for your loss of a close friend. I hope you find some comfort in the memories of happier times together.

  2. I am sorry to hear about this. I did not know him personally, but I am aware of at least some of what he wrote. He did write incredibly well.
    So sorry for your loss. It cannot be easy, but I just wanted to say how impressed I am by what you wrote here. Great advise while being in this process yourself is a feat in its own right.
    I am a firm believer of doing what is right for you by your own standards, so what I am about to write might not feel like real to you. Please discard it then. Someone once told me that dealing with loss (and a few other things) seem like an internal struggle where the heart and mind are at odds. The mind knows letting go would be best, whereas the heart would tell you it is not ready to do so. It is why the heart is right to follow. With time it will grow ready, but only when it is full of the love and memories that someone left behind. That is when the struggle would end.
    Again please discard this notion if it won't work for you.
    And again my condolences.

    Greetings Luuk

    1. I think this is fantastic advice, but even more, something I really needed to hear. I have been struggling with this battle myself and this is not a way I've thought to look at it yet. Thank you so much for sharing, Luuk.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Mage sounds like a fantastic friend and someone who loved life and ideas and sharing them. I like a lot of people can relate to the eye rolling stuff, as most people aren't into fandoms and stuff like many of us are. That makes friendships like you had with Mage even more important- people talk about finding their tribe, or their "people", and while it may sound a bit corny I think it's true.

    Anyway great post, thanks for sharing, and it sounds like you were a pretty good friend to him as well. Wishing many blessings to you and to his family also.

    1. Even if it sounds corny, I think it's totally true. I've had a lot of friends, but only a few really stood out as 'my people'. I don't think I've thought of it that way before, though, but it strikes true.
      Thanks, Greg.

  4. wow there is so much love in this post. I'm sorry for your loss Amanda. You talk about Mage with such love and admiration I can help but admire him as well. I'm 100% I would have liked him too! I can tell he did indeed had a wonderful impact in your life. So glad you are back! I really , really missed you! and thank you for the wonderful recommendations. It has been very hard for me to deal with my mom's death so I think I'll read one of your books. I think I like The Odd Thomas series! and thank you for the wonderful advice. I do think I can be a 1000 times more careful when I drive!

    1. Thanks, Dragonfly. How is it you can always manage to cheer me up? *hugs*
      I'm so sorry about your mom. I hope the recommendations help.
      You know, I've been dragging my feet about coming back to the blog, but now that I'm here, I'm really glad I'm back too. ^_^

  5. happy to hear I cheered you up a little :) I'm glad you are back too! :)