In late January, one of my close friends suddenly passed away. He had a heart attack while shoveling a neighbor’s driveway during a bad snowstorm here in Connecticut.
He was only 32 years old.
Isaac was a huge force of personality: His dark, beautiful skin contrasted the white of his enormous smile. He spun tales as large as his personality, and although you never quite knew which stories were true or what he embellished on, it didn’t matter. He was a damned good story-teller.
No one really seemed to care if his stories were true or not, because what was true was that Isaac was incredibly sincere, genuine, and a person of great energy, which outshone all of his foibles.
The outpouring on his Facebook page was enormous. This man was a beaming light of gold. He had at least 100 good friends and another 200 acquaintances.
The next morning, with puffy eyes from all the tears and a battered heart, I decided to stay home from work and pen a tribute for Isaac.
In the days that passed, my tribute made its way through social media, and grieving friends who I had never met approached me, sent personal letters and gave many sincere hugs. My post about Isaac had been shared widely, mostly by people I didn’t even know.
At his funeral, his family came up to me and thanked me; that was probably the most comforting moment for me through all of the pain.
July 18th was Isaac’s 33rd birthday. His roommate and best friend hosted a party in his honor at the very house where he had laughed, drank, eaten and slept countless times. I entered the back yard and saw that lights were strung, a huge fire was roaring, and camp tents were staked a safe distance away. There was abundant food, several kegs, and even a small stage for our musician friends.
I saw so many familiar faces and met many new ones. That’s the thing. Every time I go to one of these gatherings, I meet new people.
At the party, there was a special gift for Isaac. His roommate told us about this keg that sat on a table ten feet away. Isaac had brought it home from Vermont on one of his work endeavors. He was meaning to return it on his next trip back, but, obviously, he never got the chance. Markers were spread across the table so we could all sign it. We were re-purposing the keg with signatures of love so his roommate could make a tabletop for the sunroom with the words of everyone who cared about him.
Isaac’s friends are warm. We all have something in common: Isaac. And because of that, we never are far from shaking hands, hugging, and exchanging numbers, because any friend of Isaac’s is a friend of mine. I even have friends that live across the country because of him.
At one point, while waiting for the bathroom, I looked to my right in this warmly lit, small room that he must have stood in a thousand times, and saw a wall of commemoration; a glass pane taller than me was filled with photos of him and his friends, spanning from high school until just this past year.
It was a sobering moment.
I stood there with friends I had just made that evening, and we talked about memories of Isaac.
The morning after the party, my feet were blackened from walking around a campfire in flip-flops, my hair smelled like smoke, and my make-up was smeared. It was an excellent party, and so fulfilling to honor the only human I have ever met who had the ability to impact so many after his passing.
My post may have gone viral in the immediacy of his death, but it’s been seven months since then and people are still gathering in his name. Since he knew everyone, any time he and I were out, he’d introduce me to new people. He’s not even on this earth any longer and he is still having that affect.
His energy is so present still that I think about him nearly every day and am constantly inspired to be more loving to others because of the imprint he left on those he loved while here. He may have left too soon, but he continues to enrich the lives of those he knew, and that’s the greatest gift I think he’s ever given any of us.
I didn’t write his tribute for myself—it was all for him. It was for the man with the million dollar smile, who brought happiness with him wherever he went.
I wrote it for those who desperately needed to read those words to help their hearts heal.
I wrote it for Isaac, because he would have done the same for me or any one of his 300 friends.
I was able to find a way to move forward with positivity instead of being stuck in the past and dwelling in the loss of a great human being.
The love and compassion of this dear friend has paid itself forward a million-fold as I continue to strive and want to spread genuine happiness to others.
The impressions we make while we are alive do not just wash away when we pass. The impact has the potential to be never-ending.
We should all be so lucky to have a friend like Isaac, but more than that, we should make a promise to ourselves that we will be that true companion and genuine soul to all others we encounter in this lifetime.
We can be that impact that pays itself forward.
Author: Amanda Volponi
Apprentice Editor: Dawn Raymond/Editor: Emily Bartran
Image: Author’s own