I remember having to stop to catch my breath. I pulled my Honda Accord over to the side of the snow-dusted road and sat in disbelief.
On the other side of the phone was my friend Katelyn. Together we were planning a reunion with some old co-workers from the local grocery store. We went through a list of the names of those whom we would invite. Knowing that some would come and others would blow us off, we still wanted to include them all. I remember thinking of Erich and thinking about how it’s been awhile since I’ve seen him, so I told Katelyn we needed to invite him.
Katelyn got silent. A long pause lingered and she finally responded.
“Halle, did you not know? …. Erich died last summer.”
I had no idea.
Although we weren’t that close, his death hit me hard. The reason I didn’t know was because I was up north working at a summer camp and spent no time on Facebook. I later had deactivated my account and never got caught up on the endless updates. What’s crazy is the fact that by not keeping up with social media, I missed the death of a friend. The last time I had talked with him was on the phone – updating each other on life and his recent commitment to the army.
Although it was a few months too late, I’m glad I received the news from Katelyn. I’d rather find out the way I did than by simply seeing it as one of the many stories mixed in with the newsfeed. Hearing from a close friend kept the news from being desensitized. It was very real and heavy as the news of a death should be.
It happened in the summer of 2013. Erich was riding on his motorcycle late one night with his girlfriend following him in her car. His speed got the best him. His girlfriend couldn’t keep up and when she turned one corner, she found him crashed in the ditch. And just like that, in a brief moment, his life was taken.
I always viewed Erich as a light-hearted man. I never knew his full story, but there was something about him that intrigued me. His sense of humor brought joy to many customers. He was childish in a way and I’ll always recall how he was oddly passionate about birthday-cake Oreos.
That man loved his car more than a fat kid loves cake. Passionate about his BMW, he spent much of his paychecks investing in his baby. I remember fearing for my life while flying over 100 mph in the passenger seat of his car. That was during our trip to Valleyfair and let me just say it was the first and last time I rode with him.
Ironically, Erich was living out his life motto: “live fast, die young” Up until the day of his death. Unfortunately, at the age of nineteen, his life went faster than anyone anticipated and this motto became a literal experience for my friend.
Two years after receiving the news of his death, I still think about Erich, the life he lived and how unfortunate it is that it ended so fast. His story continues to inspire not only me, but also those in his community.
Although his experience was literal, I think in a lot of ways we are all living fast. For some, that might not be a bad thing, but at the same time there is value in taking a break from the fast-paced rhythm of life. We don’t want to rush through the precious moments in order to meet the end.
Therefore, I encourage you this holiday season take time to slow down. Take in your surroundings. Life as we know it is so very valuable, much more than the vibrant packages under the starlit trees.
This post is in memory of Erich Kanne
1994 – 2013