We Can’t Take It With Us

While this blog is geared towards helping people do awesome financial things like paying off student loans early, swearing off credit card debt and investing like a boss, it is also my personal blog and I would like to share something personal that hit me hard this past weekend.

I found out that a girl I went to high school with passed away from acute myeloid leukemia just 2 months ago.  She was 31 years old, same age as me, and worked as a lawyer.  She wasn’t really a close friend of mine and I don’t know if she even remembered me since high school was 15 years ago, but learning this news really got to me because even though I only had a few interactions with her, they were very memorable.

My family and I had moved to Maryland in 1999, so I was starting at a new high school as a junior.  Being an introverted person as it is, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the experience.  I knew it would take some time to make friends since I didn’t go out of my way to talk with people all the time.  I remember the first time we talked as clear as day.  It was Spanish class on the first day of school, and there was a little lull as the teacher had just taken attendance and was getting her lesson ready I guess.  Everyone was talking with each other about their summer breaks and other first day of school stuff.  Most of my classmates went to school together for years and everybody pretty much knew each other except me.

Surprisingly, the girl seated next to me asked if I was new and we struck up a conversation.  She told me a few things about the school and gave me the lowdown on certain teachers.  She was a senior and shared a lot of helpful information.  I can’t tell you how much that meant to me being a student in a brand new school.  It really set the tone for the rest of the year.  That was the only class we had together and seniors didn’t go to class to much so I didn’t really see her too often, but anytime we would see each other in the hallway she would always smile and ask how I was doing and if I needed anything.  We didn’t really talk outside of school so we didn’t keep in touch after high school.  I remember her saying she wanted to be a lawyer so I’m glad she was able to reach her goal.

We all lose family or friends at some point.  For some reason, when I hear about someone young passing away, especially someone I have met before, it really hits me.  It shows the almost unfair finality and fragility of life.  It really touched me hearing about her death because of how nice and genuine she was.  Maybe if I got to know her better or made an effort to keep in touch I would have been able to have even more fond memories?  Perhaps I could have had an opportunity to help her just as she helped me?  All these questions run through my head, but thinking on this I feel I have learned a few things from this incident:

-It’s probably one of the biggest cliches out there, but live life to its fullest.  My friend was able to get her dream job and helped a lot of people along the way by setting up various charities.  Reading a little bit about her life and her altruistic nature made it more clear that she helped me out of the goodness of her heart.  But it can all end all too quick.  One of my good friend’s older brother died in a motorcycle accident.  A guy I knew in high school was killed in a car accident on a suburban side street.  One of my former co-workers was shot and killed for a few dollars in his wallet.  And now my high school classmate died from leukemia.  It can all be taken away so fast.

Don’t sweat the little bumps in the road.  Just like we shouldn’t be freaking out or getting depressed about daily fluctuations of the stock market, we shouldn’t let the fluctuations of life get to us and deter us from our goals.  Plan for the long term and take the little things in stride, learning from them and becoming better people.  How many seemingly terrible things have happened to us in the past where we can look back on them and see they didn’t harm us all that much and we may have even gotten better from experiencing them.

Always do good and speak good.  The Golden Rule is what comes to mind here.  I was a new student and my friend reached out and lent me a helping hand.  I appreciated that and I know that if I’m in a similar position to help, I want to help someone else like that.  You might only get a few interactions with someone, so make them memorable in a good way.

Money is great, but we can’t take it with us when we die.  My friend was a lawyer and was probably going through a lot of the same financial issues many young professionals do.  Student loans, buying a house and investing for retirement.  But once she got the diagnosis, I could imagine none of that mattered anymore.  Money is a great tool to bring more happiness and security to us and our families, but in the face of death, it is worthless just as almost everything else.  This is more of a reminder to myself than anyone else, as I can find myself getting lost in the world of credit card rewards, student loans and investing.  It’s definitely enjoyable, but it’s not what it’s all about.

Never underestimate the happiness you can bring to others.  We go through the daily grind and lose sight of the big picture sometimes.  We all have people that are very close to us and it would be unthinkable to them if something bad happened to us.  We all have people we care about so we should try to spend even a little more time together than we usually do.  Time is the ultimate limited resource and we’re all losing it every day we are alive.  Make use of it and spend time with those who genuinely care about you.

I’m surprised that the news of my friend’s death has affected me the way it has, but I’m grateful for the chance to re-evaluate my position and focus on what’s important.  Don’t worry I’ll still be posting as usual, but I’ll try not to get lost in it all and keep my mind focused on the right things.



  1. I’m sorry to hear that happened to your young friend. It really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? I have a good friend from high school who is currently battling stage 4 cancer. It can truly happen to anyone.

    • Syed says

      It certainly can happen to anyone at anytime. I hope things work out for your friend. Thanks for the comment.

  2. This is a solemn reminder of just how finite our time is on earth and to do our best to live it well. Thanks so much for sharing this personal story and how it impacted you Syed.

    • Syed says

      Very true Kassandra. Thanks for the comment much appreciated.

  3. So sorry to hear about your friend. Sometimes I let little things stress me out. In those times I try to remind myself that in the long run none of that really matters. Like you said, we can’t take money with us and life is really short.

    • Syed says

      Yeah sometimes the little things can get to us but in the end, they’re just little things. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. It’s heartbreaking hearing of people passing from terrible diseases, especially so young – I’m sorry to hear about your friend. This is a great perspective to have. We lose sight of what is important in the day-to-day sometimes.

    • Syed says

      Thanks for the kind words. The day to day is what we usually deal with every day but it’s not what we are going to remember about people that leave us. It’s the great memories that stay with us.

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