On the Monday, our home room teacher gave us the news with the sullenest expression I had ever seen him make and to this day I have never forgotten it. Chris had been playing with a chemistry set and somehow inhaled a combination of chemicals that had killed him. Just like that, at 13 years of age, he was gone. We all sat there silently not knowing what to say or how to react. We were all in shock.
This wasn’t my first brush with death, but it was the first one that had such a striking impact. Both my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather had passed away, but I could barely remember them. Their impact in my life had been fleeting and I had not developed a strong enough bond to have their passing sting in the same visceral and immediate way that Chris’s death did.
Many years later my father’s death at 60 would impact my life deeply but Chris had never had a chance to begin his and so that milestone will remain in my memory forever as a stark reminder of how fleeting our existence can be.