Untimely death is always tragic. When the promise of tomorrow is cut short, the one who passes away leaves their loved ones to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts and try to carry on with life. While this may be a major fear of just about everyone on the planet, there are powerful lessons that can be learned when it happens.

Here is one example.

Her name was Marina Keegan

She was an aspiring writer who might have been able to be compared to someone like Maya Angelou one day. But Marina was killed in a car accident only 5 days after she graduated from Yale University. Words from her final essay in the Yale Daily News went viral after her untimely death:

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want it life.”

What Marina accomplished in her short life is beyond extraordinary. She was going to begin an internship at The New Yorker and have a play of hers produced at an international film festival. She won numerous awards and critical acclaim. Her book The Opposite of Loneliness was published on April 8, 2014, almost two years after her death over Memorial day weekend 2012. And this is just a small snapshot into the amazing life of Marina Keegan.

But as tragic as her story is, sometimes human beings learn the most during their darkest hours. So we all can learn from her life and death and carry these 7 lessons with us:

1. Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.

Why is it that people always assume that they have another tomorrow? And why do people sometimes treat their ones with such disrespect? It’s because they take life and people for granted. Yes, it’s easy to do. And yes, we all do it from time to time. But anyone who has every lost a loved one knows that every single day and every single person is precious. So remember that every day – not just when a tragedy happens.

2. You never know when it’s going to be your last day on earth.

We should appreciate and give thanks for every day we have here. Just because you are a young, beautiful, vibrant, ambitious, amazing 22 year old woman like Marina Keegan, that doesn’t make you immune to the fact that your life could be over at any minute. Not that I think you should live in fear, but if you gently remind yourself of that fact every day, then you will appreciate life and your loved ones much more.

3. Appreciate every breath you take.

Breathing is so easy – except if you have asthma, COPD, emphysema, or some other respiratory ailment. But I’m not talking quite as literally about breathing. However, until you have not been able to breathe, you don’t know what it feels like. Appreciate every breath, every heartbeat, every smile, every day you can walk, and every day you go without pain. Appreciate your health. Appreciate this day. Appreciate everything.

4. Figure out your passion and follow it – don’t wait.

Marina was following her passion. She was a writer and destined for greatness. Let her life be a shining example of what you should become. And don’t worry – it’s never too late. Just because you’re not 22 anymore doesn’t mean that your ship has sailed. Find the courage to do what you love. If you don’t do it now, then you might not ever get the chance. Just like Marina.

5. Remember that loneliness and being alone are two different things.

While I haven’t read her book, I do think her concept of loneliness is an important one for us all to ponder. There are way too many lonely people in the world. But with that said, I think we first need to become our own best friend. For example, one of my friends always says, “I’m the best company I can be with!” And no – he is not egotistical at all. He is the opposite. He just has good self-esteem and genuinely likes himself. So he will never be lonely, even if he is alone.

6. You impact people more than you think you do.

I bet Marina Keegan had no idea how much her life meant. She probably just thought she was a normal 22 year old who went to college and was following her dreams. But not only has her death impacted millions (myself included because am I writing an article about her now), but her life impacted so many other people as well. So while you might not think that you matter, you do. You matter. People are watching you. So make your message to the world a positive one.

7. You can always leave a legacy – age doesn’t matter.

You don’t have to live to the ripe old age of 90 or 100 to leave your mark on the world. I sure hope I do live that long, but it doesn’t matter how old it is when you die. If you live your life right, follow your passion, be a good, kind, genuine person, then that is all you need to do. Your positive example is enough to leave your footprint on earth after you are gone.

Thank you, Marina, for a life well lived. You did more in your 22 years than most people do in an entire lifetime. Your life mattered. And it’s because of you that we all reframe our own lives and appreciate it infinitely more. We salute and honor you. Your life serves as a model for the rest of us. And that is the ultimate compliment.

RIP, Ms. Keegan.

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