Last year one of my friends lost her brother. He was shot dead in their home. He was only 21-years-old. When she called me , I had no idea what to say. I am awkward with death in general but I think in this case what got to me the most was that he was so young, it wasn’t his time yet – there was absolutely nothing that I could have said in that moment that would have mattered.
I remembered the first and only time I met him. It was at my friend’s 25th birthday party. I was mad because he was supposed to come fetch me from the mall near their house as I had gotten lost. He didn’t seem phased by my emotions and simply smiled. To him, all that mattered was that I made it and now the celebrations could begin. The theme was white and gold. There he was – this tiny guy, in a white shirt, those big nerd glasses, a poor boy cap and khakhi pants held up by suspenders. His look was the first that told me he was the kind of person who liked to stand out in a crowd and while the rest of us were happy to indulge in our run of the mill ciders, he was drinking umqombothi and living his best life. I remember him offering me some. I dared to try it, hated it and shared a few laughs after that. What I didn’t know, was that the next time I would see him would be in his coffin with the life drained from his face and his wide smile wiped off.
His friends and family call him Tiny. I choose to use the present tense because in them, his spirit will always be present and not past. Tiny’s last Facebook statement was his persona wrapped perfectly in one short phrase:
BE I N S P I R E D.
That last status gave life to his funeral. It became the overarching theme of what he would be remembered for and what he wanted for his life and the lives of all those he touched. I didn’t know Tiny, but that day I met him once again through the eyes, the words and the actions of all those who loved him most. For me the most important thing was to take from his legacy and learn. At 21, most would say a person still had so much more they could do but his family and friends said all of that would simply be the decor on a life that was already stunning. Tiny was the kind of guy who explored, who ventured and worked hard to make sure that he was living a life that made him happy. His gratitude in everything resounds with me until today. I cannot say thank you without the need to say it three times, because that’s how he said it. These are small things I picked up from all the speeches, through all the tears and all the sorrow. Tiny lived a life inspired and on the day of his funeral, everyone around me agreed that his life pushed them to do more.
The truth is, some may have forgotten the commitments they made to living each day out fully and making sure that the sun does not set while they are still planning for how they will live a life fulfilled some day. Along the path, I forgot. Every day I would come up with an excuse for why I will start acting on plans the next day and not in the moment that I remembered them. It’s funny, that it took a near-death experience for me to remember the commitment I made at Tiny’s funeral. If I had died that day and had to look down at some of the things I did not do, I would have been let down by my actions. I think the purpose of Tiny’s message to be inspired, was that you need to act daily.
Even if each step is a minuscule step in the process of attaining success you will at least be able to say “I took a step”. It’s not about being happy every single day, but finding gratitude in small things that contribute to your life. Tiny could not have known just how many lives would be affected by his life. He just lived.
This past weekend someone told me that the difference between aspiration and inspiration is that aspiration is about the material gain you seek through the life of another whereas inspiration is about what values you see in someone that you want to then tailor-fit to your own life.
Tiny inspired me to live a life inspired. He reminded me of the unpredictability of life and the necessity to dream – even when your dreams seem unattainable.
On 7 July 2014, we lost a brother, but we gained an angel. Thank you Tiny.